Schafer Autism Report

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014                                                     Reader Supported.


 

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EMPLOYMENT


Program Helps Young Adults Take Autism To Work
Project Search teaches necessary job skills, eases transition to workforce


     
clickondetroit.com




      Finding work after graduation can prove challenging for anyone, but for young adults with autism, getting that first job can be especially difficult.
      A recent study by the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found that half of young adults with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are unable to find work in the eight years after finishing high school.
      Enter Project Search, an innovative program that hopes to make the transition easier.
      The year-long program uses a hands-on learning approach combined with classroom-style instruction to introduce developmentally and mentally disabled children to the workplace.
      Dr. David Kuhn, the clinical director of New York's Presbyterian Center for Autism and the Developing Brain, hopes to give participants the opportunity to thrive in any environment.
      "The mission is really to build the skills necessary for these individuals to move on beyond these doors to get competitive employment," Kuhn said.
      For the duration of the program, interns--who range in age from 18 to 21--will spend at least six hours each day building and later applying necessary skills and becoming more comfortable with the idea of entering the workplace.
      "Our interns go through three rotations, three ten-week rotations for a total of 600 work hours per year where they are placed at different sites across our campus getting a variety of different experiences," Kuhn said.
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Businesses Look To Hire People With Autism
To Improve Workforce Capabilities, ‘Autism At Work’

     
inquisitr.com




      A local bakery and cafe in Schenectady, New York, is hoping to shed light on the issue of employment for people with autism. The bakery is looking to employ individuals with autism or other disabilities in a hope of showing the community that people with autism can be a vital member of the workforce.
      WNYT reports that cafe owner Sara Mae Hickey plans to open Puzzles Bakery and Cafe on State Street this summer. Hickey said there are about 20 positions opening, but she has already received over 100 applications, from applicants both with and without disabilities.
      “We’re looking to hire people with and without disabilities, but it is certainly our mission to hire people with autism and other special needs."
      Hickey is passionate about bringing awareness to issues related to autism and is the head of the SchaferAutismReport18-Autism Initiative. Hickey says her own sister has autism making the cause very dear to her heart. Hickey says: “People with autism make really good employees. They’re very willing and happy to be here. Some people with autism are great with repetitive tasks and great with people. It depends on each individual, but it’s great to take a chance on autism."
      She is hoping that her cafe will bring awarness to other businesses about why hiring individuals with autism could be good for their business. Unfortunately, unemployment is very high in the special needs community, including for those with autism. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a study was performed in 2010 to compare unemployment rates for individuals with disabilities compared to those without a disability. The study SchaferAutismReport18-found that only 29 percent of individuals with disabilities were working compared to 64 percent of those without disability. The study also found that young adults with autism who were employed compared to that of individuals who were deaf, blind or had multiple disabilities. The study confirmed that people with autism were falling through the cracks of employment.
      However, more businesses are realizing that they may be making a mistake by overlooking the autism community. Aljazeera America reports that SAP, the world’s third-largest software company, started a pilot program called Autism at Work. SAP has hired 30 employees with autism around the world — in Ireland, Germany, India, Canada and the U.S. — and plans to hire more than 600 others with autism by 2020, totaling 1 percent of its global workforce. Jose Velasco, vice president of product management and head of the Autism at Work program, says: “People affected by autism bring a tremendous amount of capabilities that are very important for us as an IT company. We are looking for people who have the ability to concentrate on tasks for a long time, people who have the ability to, in some places, do tasks that for other people might be considered repetitive but are absolutely of very high importance for us and the company."
      The benefits can be great for companies willing to make a few changes to accomodate employees with autism. For example, SAP notes that people with autism face real challenges in a traditional work setting.
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• • •

Dream Big: Employment For Adults With Disabilities

      By Michelle K. Wolf 
jewishjournal.com
 


      What group in the United States today has the highest percentage of unemployed? It is not women, or one particular ethnic group, or even those without a college degree. The group with the highest percentage of unemployed, some 80 percent in most parts of thSchaferAutismReport18-e country, is adults with disabilities.
      That’s about to change with the passage of the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which has artfully managed to garner bipartisan congressional and presidential support. Once enacted, it will prohibit individuals age 24 and under with disabilities from working in jobs that pay less than $7.25 an hour unless they first try vocational training programs. There will be exemptions for those already working in subminimum wage jobs, such as sheltered workshops, and for severely impacted individuals. Activists consider this an “Employment First” approach to ensuring that as many people with disabilities as possible are able to work in competitive employment positions.
      As Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, CEO and president of RespectAbility USA, based in Washington, D.C., explained to me on the phone, this new law will result in better vocational training for high school students with disabilities, with a new emphasis on internships and trying out different types of jobs. “We are moving away from the pity model, which says, ‘We as a society feel sorry for people with disabilities and out of the goodness of our hearts, we will give you something to do and make sure you don’t starve,’ to finding out the unique talents of each person and helping them to contribute in a meaningful and dignified way."
      States will be required to spend more money coordinating programs between public schools and their state departments of rehabilitation, offering students in special education a better path to adulthood than the current system. Right now, a majority of students in special education stay at their public high school until age 22, after which, most often, they end up staying home with their parents, watching TV or on a computer, and living off their monthly SSI check, which, in California, 
maxes out at $883. Only a small minority go on to post-secondary education, vocational training, volunteer opportunities or paid employment. With fears of hostile work environments and of losing government benefits if their children earn too much, parents are afraid to dream big.
      In the Los Angeles Jewish community, we already have some examples of how an “Employment First” approach would work, using equal doses of creativity and collaboration, and there are many exciting ideas in the planning stages.
      For starters, there’s the Ezra vocational training program at Camp Ramah in Ojai, now in its 12th year. Older teens and young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities are taught life and work skills and placed in various jobs, at camp or in town. Recognizing that many of these Ezra participants need year-round vocational assistance, there are plans to expand the scope of the program, if funding can be raised.
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• • •

RELATIONSHIPS

Flirting with Danger: Dating Fails on the Autism Spectrum
 




      Emily Brooks 
autostraddle.com

      I’ve always had trouble understanding social relationships. Cracking open the cover to the Lisa Frank unicorn journal from my childhood, I found evidence in the words of my eight-year-old self: “This is the true story of … the day me and Philip the bad Parted (secretly). I wanted to marry him when I grew up — Until now. …I stepped Philip’s foot — by mistake. He Yelled an ear-deafing Yell and said to me ‘NEVER STEP ON THE MASTER’S FOOT!’ I went out, crying."
      “Philip the Bad” wasn’t my friend, much less a grade-school love. He was just a fifth grader who was also in the church choir. The relationship was entirely 100% in my own head.
      Dating and relationships are foreign territory. I do my best to tread them and I think I have the important parts down pat, like how to love people and be kind to them, but the subtleties of body language, the knowledge of appropriate responses, and the idea of being in touch with my feelings escapes me. It’s just the way I am, part and parcel of my autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

WTF is Dating, Anyway?
      Just the other day, my social worker at a recreational program I attend asked me if I wanted dating support. I went off on a long and vague tangent before stopping, staring at her, and admitting, “Honestly, I’m not even sure what dating is!"
      Activities that are entrenched in our social world mystify me. I am the type of person who tries to intellectually analyze emotional happenings because they make little logical sense to me. In childhood, I used my stuffed animals to stand for different people in social situations that I acted out before bed. In middle school, I came up with seven qualities that would be required in a romantic match and committed them to heart. In high school, I used graph paper to chart the people I knew: were they “friendly acquaintances,” “friends,” or “close friends”? I’ve turned to my journal, my therapists, and my family members to share my rational reasoning behind feelings and social life. My sister informed me that my number-based formula, which credited people in my life on ten different qualities and items on a 1-to-5 scale in order to figure out who was my friend, was completely ridiculous and lacking. If I don’t understand people from the social perspective, then I analyze them intellectually. I categorize people in relation to me, sometimes in highly-questionable ways — for instance, I notice that my bullies somehow made it into the “friendly acquaintance” or “friend” lists of my teen years.
      When I started college, I didn’t have any dating experience. While there’s nothing wrong with a romantic start in adulthood, there’s a stigma around it. I felt ashamed and unwanted. That low self-esteem led to even lower priorities. I ended up having a “boyfriend” for three weeks freshman year, counting the five-day Thanksgiving vacation. I felt nothing for him. My reasoning was, “Nobody else will ever want me anyway, so if somebody shows interest, jump in.” It was a “relationship”, if you can call it that, for the sake of having a relationship — all surface. Like a disgusting cake with beautiful frosting, it lacked the ingredients for happiness.
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• • •

TRAINING / TREATMENTS

From Scaling Heights To Going Shopping, A Virtual Reality Room Is Now Helping People With Autism Overcome Crippling Phobias

      By Sarah Griffiths dailymail.co.uk

A virtual reality room (pictured) is being used to enable people with autism to experience the thing that terrifies them in a safe environment. Using the technology, eight out of nine children were able to tackle the situation they feared Newcastle University said that four of the children taking part were found to have totally overcome their phobia. The treatment involved sitting in a room surrounded with screens which, using virtual reality technology, can be transformed into the situation that the patient fears.

       You may think that virtual reality is only used for playing video games But the technology is now helping people with autism overcome crippling phobias and allow them to live more normal lives, researchers have found.
      A virtual reality room is being used to enable people to experience the thing that terrifies them the most in a safe environment.
      Using the technology, eight out of nine children were able to tackle the situation they feared.
      Newcastle University said that four of the children taking part were found to have totally overcome their phobia.
      The treatment involved sitting in a room surrounded with screens which, using virtual reality technology, can be transformed into the situation that the patient fears.
      After using relaxation techniques and sitting alongside a psychologist, the child can gradually be introduced to the scenario.
      People suffering autism often face phobias which are so acute they and their families will avoid the situation.
      Scenarios created at the Blue Room suite in Gateshead include getting on a busy bus, crossing a high bridge, talking to a shop assistant or going shopping.
      The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, tested the technology on nine boys aged between seven and 13.
      Dr Jeremy Parr, Clinical Senior Lecturer specialising in Paediatric Neurodisability at Newcastle University’s Institute of Neuroscience said: ‘Phobias have a huge impact on a child with autism and on the whole family.
      ‘Parents often find themselves taking action to avoid the situation the child fears, which can impact on school and leisure activities.
      ‘Currently the main treatment is cognitive behaviour therapy but that often doesn’t work for a child with autism, as it relies on imagination.
      ‘People with autism can find imagination difficult so by providing the scene in front of the child’s eyes we help them learn how to manage their fears.’ The screens in the suite create a 360 degree seamless world, without the need for the child to wear a headset or goggles.
      A tablet is used to move around the scene, allowing them to explore the situation they have previously found traumatic and parents can watch from outside via a videolink.
      Researcher Dr Morag Maskey said: ‘One boy was so fearful shopping that he would walk behind his parents with his hood up, refusing to even speak to people he knew.
      ‘We created a petrol station kiosk scene in the Blue Room where he picked up a newspaper.
      ‘With the help of the psychologist who was in the room with him, he learnt to control his anxiety with breathing and stretching exercises.
      ‘He then built up confidence over four sessions until he held a conversation with the shop assistant avatar.
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• • •

5 Nonprofits Picked to Use Google Glass for Good

      By Angela Moscaritolo 
pcmag.com

       Google on Wednesday announced five winners of its Giving through Glass contest, which called for ideas on how best to use the high-tech headset for good.
      Launched in October, the contest challenged U.S. nonprofits to share ideas for how Google Glass can support their missions. Selected from more than 1,300 proposals, the five winning nonprofits are: 3000 Miles to a Cure, Classroom Champions, The Hearing and Speech Agency, Mark Morris Dance Group, and Women's Audio Mission.
      The winners will each nab one of the pricey wearables along with a $25,000 grant, a trip to Google for training, and access to Glass developers to help make their projects a reality.

      "We believe technology can help nonprofits make a difference more easily, and connect people to the causes they care about," Google.org Director Jacquelline Fuller wrote in a blog post announcing the winners. "It's with this in mind that we launched Giving through Glass."
      So what are they planning to do with Glass? Classroom Champions, for starters, will give students in high-needs schools a look at life through the eyes of Paralympic athletes as they train and compete. Their goal is to foster empathy and teach the kids to "see ability where others too often see only disability."
      Bay Area-based Women's Audio Mission is also planning to use Glass to bolster its educational programs. The organization will create more immersive lab experiences for its music-based science, technology, engineering, arts, and mat
h training program for women and girls.
      Two other winners — the Hearing and Speech Agency and the Mark Morris Dance Group — will use Glass in therapeutic settings. The Hearing and Speech Agency is planning to develop Glass-based solutions to support those with speech language challenges, hearing loss, and autism. The Mark Morris Dance Group, meanwhile, will use the connected headset to help people with Parkinson's disease "remember and trigger body movements in their daily lives."
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• • •

Drug Design For Inherited Learning Disabilities, Other Neurological Diseases
     
     
phys.org 

      Scientists have used the UK's national synchrotron science facility, Diamond Light Source, to make a discovery that could pave the way for more effective, targeted drugs to treat inherited learning disabilities and other neurological diseases. UK-based Heptares Therapeutics, the pioneering structure-guided drug discovery and development company, has mapped the structure of a protein linked to the genetic disorder Fragile X Syndrome, a major cause of inherited learning disabilities, as well as to autism, depression, anxiety, addiction and movement disorders. Understanding the structure of this protein means a new generation of targeted medication could be fast on the heels of drugs currently undergoing clinical trials to treat the symptoms of these diseases.
      The level of detail required for this work could only be achieved using the intense synchrotron light produced at Diamond Light Source, the UK's synchrotron science facility based on the Harwell Science & Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire. Around 3,500 scientists a year use this light to study samples, and its intensity allows them to visualise on a scale that is unobtainable in their home laboratories.
      Diamond Light Source produces a light 10 billion times brighter than the sun allowing scientists to study proteins at an atomic level. Using Diamond, Heptares scientists shone this intense light through pure protein crystals placed in the "beamline", a specialist lab, and for the first time determined the 3D structure of the protein mGlu5 (metabotropic glutamate receptor 5), part of a family of receptors that controls brain activity. Heptares' research, published today in the journal Nature, outlines a detailed understanding of mGlu5 and how it is affected by a drug which has been evaluated in clinical trials to treat Fragile X symptoms and other neurological disorders.
      Using these findings, Heptares has enabled the development of a 'new generation' of targeted medication for diseases linked to this family of proteins with improved effectiveness over drugs currently in trials. Scientists from Heptares have already used the structural information to discover molecules that lock into a "pocket" identified inside the protein during this latest study.
      Dr Fiona Marshall, Chief Scientific Officer at Heptares, believes this discovery has the potential to transform the treatment of a range of serious diseases involving mGlu5: "Drugs currently in clinical trials could be on the market within about five years' time, however, with the knowledge gathered in this study we could have a 'new generation' of precisely designed and more effective drugs within about ten years. Being able to use the world-leading microfocus X-ray crystallography beamline (I24) at Diamond Light Source to understand how the protein reacts to different drugs at an atomic level is invaluable in the success of research into these diseases."
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• • •

NEWS

Bill Provides $1.3B For Autism Research

      By Ilya Hemlin 
nj1015.com


Thomas Lohnes, Getty Images

      A new bill introduced in Washington would allocate $1.3 billion in funding for autism research and initiatives, as well as addressing the needs of autistic children who are “aging out” of current programs.
      The Autism CARES (Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support) Act of 2014, authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), would distribute the money over a five-year period.
      The legislation would require a report from the Secretary of Health and Human Services on best practices for transitioning adolescents. That report will be supplemented by another one with input from state and local governments, and also instructors from the private sector and non-profits.
      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found a continued increase in autism rates, as 1 in every 68 American children born this year will have autism spectrum disorder. New Jersey leads the country with 1 in every 45 children having ASD.
      Bobbie Gallagher, a mother of two highly autistic boys from Brick who first brought attention to the state’s high rate 17 years ago, said addressing the issue of “aging out” is vital.
      “(My sons) are not going to go to college and they’re not going to be employed in the traditional sense,” she said.
      Gallagher said that while in the public school system, her sons received attention from highly qualified teachers and aides who helped them progress. However, those same high standards aren’t there in adult programs, causing many autistic individuals’ development to regress.
      “It hinders their ability to be out in the community, and if you can’t be out in the community, then you’re not going to be out having a job either,” she said. “Their world starts getting smaller instead of larger as they become adults, and that’s a concern."

• • •

HOUSING

New Jersey Dad Creates Community- Based Housing Program for Adults With Autism

Touchdown Communities offers safe and secure living and work environments, programs to foster ongoing growth and relationships, and sustainable and lasting options for home and work.
     
      PRWEB

      Adults with autism and related developmental disorders will soon have a place to live, work, and socialize. Touchdown Communities (TDC), the brainchild of Moorestown’s Tim Downes, is in the process of purchasing a site for development in Burlington, N.J. at the intersection of Elbow Lane and Route 541 South. The site will offer housing for 66 individuals with all the amenities found at home to allow independent living.
      Downes, the father of two teenagers with autism, founded TDC, a nonprofit organization, to create a healthy environment for adults with autism.
      “Children and teenagers with autism have needed access to educational and social services, but autism is a lifelong development disability,” Downes said. “Their development shouldn’t have to suffer just because they age out of the school system. That’s the purpose of Touchdown Communities -- to provide community-based housing and day programs for adults with autism and related developmental disorders."
      Autism is a serious health issue. It is the second most common developmental disorder in the United States, affecting one in every 68 children in the country. In New Jersey, a staggering one in 46 children, including one in 28 boys, is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which includes autism, Asperger's syndrome, Rett syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified, and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder.
      Downes has done everything he can to improve the quality of life of his two teenagers with autism. Whether working with school districts or private therapists, he has tried to help his son and daughter develop meaningful relationships with family and peers for better success at home and school.
      Thinking about the future, though, Downes shares the concerns of many parents in similar situations about the lack of options for living, employment, and recreational activities for adults with autism.
      Medford’s Libby Majewski, who has been working with children with ASDs for more than 20 years, is helping Downes launch TDC.
      “Each individual will enjoy a variety of day programs, innovative therapies, and daily group activities in a supportive and stimulating environment,” Majewski said. “We’d also like to collaborate with local companies to identify employment opportunities that offer our adults a match with their skills and areas of interest."
      TDC is teaming with Arthur & Friends to provide training and employment for adults on the autism spectrum. Arthur & Friends is a nonprofit organization that develops employment opportunities in agribusiness occupations and industries based on the strengths, needs, and desires of individuals with a disability.
      TDC’s Burlington site will include hydroponic greenhouses where residents can grow hydroponic vegetables for sale to restaurants, stores, and the public.
      “This is only the beginning,” said Downes. “Our vision is to have communities across the country."
      For more information about TDC or to make a tax deductible donation, visit http://www.touchdowncommunities.org.
      

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  In This Issue:


 



































EMPLOYMENT
Program Helps Young Adults Take Autism To Work 

Businesses Look To Hire People With Autism

Dream Big: Employment For Adults With Disabilities

RELATIONSHIPS
Flirting with Danger: Dating Fails on the Autism Spectrum

TRAINING / TREATMENTS
From Scaling Heights To Going Shopping, A Virtual Reality Room Is Now Helping People With Autism Overcome Crippling Phobias

5 Nonprofits Picked to Use Google Glass for Good

Drug Design For Inherited Learning Disabilities, Other Neurological Diseases

NEWS
Bill Provides $1.3B For Autism Research

HOUSING
New Jersey Dad Creates Community-Based Housing Program for Adults With Autism



 

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