Elizabeth Cassese

Marla Diamond/WCBS 880

Navigating Adulthood With Autism: Breaking Into The Workforce

March 12, 2018 - 3:38 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- In her three-part series on adults with autism, WCBS Newsradio 880 Reporter Marla Diamond explores the growing opportunities in the workforce for people on the spectrum.

While exact numbers are hard to come by, it's believed 80 percent of adults with autism are unemployed even though their IQs are well above average.

Mike is a participant in the job skills program at Harlem's Quality Services for the Autism Community, an organization serving New York City and Long Island that provides training programs and support services for adults with autism and their families.

"First I had to do money goals and communication skills," said Mike, who has been getting job training at a Party City in the Bronx. "I don't know what I'm good at, but I'm good at helping."

More: Navigating Adulthood With Autism: The Value Of Independence

As we learn more about the developmental disorder, a growing number of large companies are hiring adults with autism.

But getting past the interview is often a challenge, says QSAC's Chief Executive Officer Lisa Veglia.

"They have that social awkwardness, I'll call it, and that's something that we can work on -- teaching them those skills, giving them mock opportunities to engage in an interview, in a typical work dynamic how would they handle it," Veglia said.

In our area, AT&T funds QSAC's training for software engineering and computer science jobs.

AT&T has helped QSAC launch a STEM education initiative to provide adults with autism valuable tools that the company says will “foster the development of tech-related skills."

"This is an area where the thought process of someone with autism really shines," said Marissa Shorenstein, the company's northeastern president. "And the fact that they can code without necessarily having to communicate in other ways gives them an opportunity to do the work just like anybody else."

Another part of AT&T's commitment to the disabled is providing support for the aging caregivers of autistic adults who worry about what will happen to their child once they're gone, which Diamond will explore in her final piece of the series that will run on WCBS Newsradio 880 and WCBS880.com.