Attending school over the summer may sound like a real drag to most young teens, but a unique new summer program is providing youth with autism opportunities to develop new friendships, explore employment interests and gain valuable work experience – all while earning school credit.
“It would be wonderful to have some sort of next step. Something that happens after the program that you tailor to the individual.” In an effort to respond to this common sentiment by Worktopia participants and families, ‘Post Program Supports’ are now being offered following program completion to help maintain momentum and support the development of concrete next steps along the employment journey.
Worktopia and Ready, Willing and Able are working together to meaningfully influence the employment futures of youth and young adults with autism. To read more about how the programs are helping job seekers develop their employment skills, gain a better understanding of the employment services and supports in their local community, and make connections to inclusive workplaces that are looking to hire, click on the news story attached featuring a recent graduate of the EmploymentWorks Canada program.
“If you have a (young person) who does not open up and does not talk about those things then … having (a written report with) strengths, weaknesses, what to work on, resources, all that is very important.” (Parent of Worktopia Participant)
Using national population survey data, researchers from The School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary explored the education, daily needs and labour force participation of adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They looked at data from the 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability that surveyed 45,500 Canadians with disabilities and found valuable information about the challenges people with disabilities encounter getting into and remaining in the workforce. Their research is also providing insights that inform policy development.
Peer mentorship was recognized as an important element in the original design of the Worktopia programs. The concept of using peer mentors who do not have autism to provide support to participants who do, has evolved to include program graduates who have autism.
Working age individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have the lowest employment rate in Canada at 14.3% in comparison to the general population (92.7%) and other disability groups (45.2%). This significant under-engagement in the labour force demonstrates the need to consider new and innovative approaches to employment to support long-term improved outcomes and overall quality of life.
In Worktopia, more than 44% of individuals who enrolled in the EmploymentWorks Canada program reported experiencing three or more co-occurring mental health conditions. Challenges posed by these factors may negatively influence employment and engagement in the community.
Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) experience higher rates of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts than people in the general population. This highlights a critical but not well recognized issue facing individuals living with ASD, their families, and the professionals and front line staff who engage with the ASD population.