Agency Helps College Grads With Autism Find A Home In The Workplace

April 30, 2018 - 10:16 am

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- As we close out Autism Awareness Month, WCBS reporter Marla Diamond introduces us to an agency whose sole mission is to get more college graduates on the spectrum into the workplace.

Integrate Autism Employment Advisors, formerly the Asperger Syndrome Training & Employment Partnership (ASTEP), is trying to change the misperceptions we have about people on the spectrum.

Marcia Scheiner, the mother of a 26-year-old son with autism, founded ASTEP/Integrate in 2010.

"We work with employers mostly Fortune 500, Fortune 1000 type companies to help them identify, recruit and retain college graduates on the autism spectrum," Scheiner said.

Navigating Adulthood With Autism: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Approximately 500,000 people with autism are expected to enter adulthood in the next 10 years. Recent data shows 85 percent of college graduates with autism are unemployed.

"So for a lot of our young adults when they sit down and start to think about looking for a job they get overwhelmed and the walk away from the process," Scheiner said.

And if they do get their foot in the door Scheiner says the interview can be a nightmare.

"You might come across awkwardly, then you sit a little awkwardly in your chair. All of those things, those are all the first impression. If your handshake isn't quite right. Those are all the things that people on the spectrum will struggle with so those first impressions are difficult to make," Scheiner said.

ASTEP helps bridge the gap, helping companies see the benefit of hiring adults with autism.

Scheiner is encouraged that companies like Microsoft and German software maker SAP are creating programs specifically designed for hirees on the spectrum.

"People are saying 'I'm ready, I want to be hiring people,'" Scheiner said.

More: Queens School Fashions Retail Learning Center To Help Students With Autism Enter Workforce