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Innovative Supports for Autistic Workers: Expanding Employment Opportunities

Innovative Supports for Autistic Workers (ISAW) began as a project to educate and support Kentucky Career Centers’ Business Service Teams in their understanding of issues relevant to autism and employment. In 2017, ISAW made its services available to all human resource professionals in the state. Through consultation, face-to-face training sessions, web-based modules, and ongoing services and supports, employers will be able to increase their competence and confidence in hiring and supervising workers on the autism spectrum.
Innovative Supports for Autistic Workers trainings are provided at no cost and can be delivered at a convenient location or by webinar. Participants will increase their skills and knowledge about interview techniques, problem solving, accommodations, and many other topics.
These trainings were developed by Bev Harp, whose understanding of autism comes from personal experience, peer-reviewed literature, and experience working with other autistic adults. Bev explains,

Unemployment is a huge problem for autistic adults nationwide. In Kentucky, unemployment rates hover around 85%, higher than any other disability. With this project, we want to address the reservations that employers may have, as well as preconceived ideas about autism and what autistic workers are able to do. There is a level of discomfort, even for some diversity-minded employers, with unfamiliar body language, or unusual ways of communication. With ISAW, we talk about some of the reasons behind autistic differences and provide opportunities for employers to ask questions. For some employers we’ve worked with, this is the first time they have ever (knowingly) engaged with autistic adults in the workplace. This is such an important step, getting to know us, recognizing that our skills and interests are as diverse as those of any other group. Autistic workers can bring unique perspectives and talents that businesses need. ISAW is here to help make those connections. Continue reading

Bev Harp

HDI 50th Anniversary Spotlight on Bev Harp

There are many things I value about HDI, but two stand out to me as most important. The first is the way students are supported, nurtured, and respected as partners in our work. Research Assistants work on grant proposals, travel to present at conferences, and enjoy opportunities to contribute to the literature in our field. Practicum students have developed learning and evaluation tools that continue to benefit us long after they have moved on. The ways students are valued and embraced by the institute says a lot about our cultural character. Another vitally important aspect is our interdisciplinary focus, which provides access to a wide array of viewpoints, theories, and methods to use in our work. Having multiple ways to think about problems allows us to develop solutions that are truly innovative, and to continue growing our own understandings of disability in society.
—Bev Harp, Principal Investigator on Innovative Supports for Autistic Workers

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Elizabeth Biggs, with light brown hair and a dress, holding the Claw Award

Elizabeth Biggs receives the Maurice A. Clay Award as outstanding graduate senior in the College of Social Work.

Elizabeth Biggs, who works as an HDI practicum student under the supervision of Bev Harp, received the Maurice A. Clay Award which recognized her as the outstanding graduate senior of the College of Social Work.

Below is a description of the award:

“The University of Kentucky Circle of Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society, established the Maurice A. Clay Awards over twenty-five years ago to recognize the outstanding graduating senior in each academic college at UK, as selected by the Dean or the Dean’s representative.  The basic criterion is exceptional leadership, and service to the student’s college while maintaining a strong academic record.

ODK recognizes superior scholarship, leadership and exemplary character.  The Clay Awards are one way in which our national Leadership Society can bestow on graduating seniors a ‘Mark of High Distinction’.” Continue reading

Photo of flyer for conference

Unpuzzling Disability: Self Advocates Redefining Leadership Coming in July!

The purpose of this event is to bring together people with all types of disabilities who are interested in developing and sharing leadership skills. In order to have our voices heard and respected, we must create stronger networks for sharing and supporting one another. Kentucky has a few self-advocacy groups, but they tend to be small and disconnected from one another. We are hoping that the unconference will help to create some stronger bonds and help us all to think about new ways to work together on issues of importance to our communities.

The unconference format is a great equalizer. There is a structure behind the apparent lack of structure that encourages participation by those who may have found themselves disempowered in more formal settings. There is a strong sense of ownership and connection that comes from the shared responsibility of creating and leading sessions. It is an approach very well suited to the discussion of self-advocate leadership. —Bev Harp

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