NEW YORK, N.Y. (April 16, 2009) – Autism Speaks, the nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization, today announced the launch of Autism in the Workplace, an online resource for individuals with autism, families and employers, in an effort to increase awareness about the many benefits of employing individuals with autism spectrum disorders and to connect them with potential employment opportunities.
“There are thousands of teens and adults with autism across the country who have both the ability and the desire to do meaningful work for fair pay and benefits,” said Lisa Goring, Autism Speaks director of family services. “Autism in the Workplacewill highlight the significant contributions people with autism are already making in a variety of job settings.”
Autism in the Workplace is a collection of videos that feature individuals with autism and their successful work experiences – from an individual running his own business from home to a teaching assistant working with children with autism in a school setting. Each video shows a person with autism at work, accompanied by commentary from his or her employer. In addition to the videos, this element of the Autism Speaks web site features suggestions about how to create employment opportunities that are rewarding and valuable for both parties, as well as links to resources for employers and potential employees. To learn more about the program please click here to visit Autism in the Workplace online.
As part of this ongoing initiative, Autism Speaks invites submissions of additional success stories that can be posted on the Autism in the Workplace page.
Unemployment and underemployment remain challenges for people with autism and other disabilities. A 2004 Louis Harris Poll found that only 38% of individuals with a disability were employed, as compared to 78% of those who did not have a disability. It is estimated that more than a quarter of adults with a disability live in poverty, and more than seventy-five percent earn less than $20,000 per year (Bowe, 2006). Yet research has shown that employers tend to be highly satisfied with the productivity and dependability of their employees who have disabilities.
“Adults with autism, across the spectrum, can be gainfully employed,” said Peter F. Gerhardt, Ed.D, President and Chair, Scientific Council of Organization for Autism Research and Chairperson of the Young Adult/Adult Services Subcommittee of Autism Speaks' Family Services Committee. “If the goal for all adults on the spectrum is a life of dignity, competence and quality, then increased employment should be considered a first and critically important step.”
“From employees with autism to the employers who support them, this unique web resource provides important insight into productive and successful work situations across the country as we start thinking more about the abilities of adults with autism spectrum disorder, rather than their limitations,” said Leslie Long, Director of Public Policy and Systems Advocacy, Autism New Jersey and Chairperson of the Work Group for Autism Speaks' Family Services Committee.
Autism Speaks provides internships to adults with autism in its offices, and also outsources work to companies that employ people with autism. The organization is currently exploring the creation of employment opportunities, as well.
“We are committed to helping to dispel myths about the employability of people with autism,” said Jennifer Bizub, Autism Speaks national director of human resources. “Our goal is to foster initiatives – both within our organization and in work settings nationwide – that help adults with autism develop necessary job skills so that they can be of maximum value to their employer and find personal fulfillment in their work.”
Autism is a complex brain disorder that inhibits a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by behavioral challenges. Autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in one in 150 children in the United States, affecting four times as many boys as girls. The prevalence of autism has increased tenfold in the last decade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown.
About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is the nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. Autism Speaks funds more than $30 million each year in new autism research, in addition to supporting the Autism Treatment Network, Autism Genetic Resource Exchange, Autism Clinical Trials Network, Autism Tissue Program and a range of other scientific and medical programs. Notable awareness initiatives include the establishment of the annual United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2 and an award-winning, multi-year national public service advertising campaign with the Ad Council. Autism Speaks' family services efforts include the Autism Video Glossary, a 100 Day Kit for newly-diagnosed families, a School Community Tool Kit and the distribution of community grants to local service providers. Its government relations department, through its Autism Votes initiative, has played a critical role in securing federal legislation to advance the federal government's response to autism, and has successfully advocated for insurance reform to require insurers to cover medically-necessary autism therapies. Each year, Autism Speaks Walk Now for Autism fundraising events are held in more than 70 cities across the country, as well as Canada and the United Kingdom.
About the Co-Founders
Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Bob Wright is Senior Advisor at Lee Equity Partners and served as vice chairman, General Electric, and chief executive officer of NBC and NBC Universal for more than twenty years. He also serves on the board of directors of the Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation and RAND Corporation. Suzanne Wright has an extensive history of active involvement in community and philanthropic endeavors, mostly directed toward helping children. She serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations and is also Trustee Emeritus of Sarah Lawrence College, her alma mater. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org.