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

Evan Miracle sitting in a chair and smiling at camera

Project E3: Video Profiles of People with Disabilities Employed in Kentucky 

by Patti Logsdon
Rural communities encounter unique challenges for people with disabilities in achieving competitive, integrated, and lasting employment, as well as community participation and integration. Project E3 is a Vocational Rehabilitation technical assistance project that aims to help people with disabilities from underserved, economically disadvantaged communities throughout the country achieve their independent living and employment goals.  
Kentucky has two targeted communities – which are defined as rural and remote, and have high poverty levels – that receive intensive technical assistance, enabling State VR agencies and partner organizations to improve outreach and employment-related services to underserved individuals with disabilities. The interventions have been developed around addressing identified barriers to employment and community integration. In Kentucky, we are working with two groups: transition age youth (16-24) with developmental disabilities and/or specific sensory impairments such as blindness or deafness, and people of all ages with mental health diagnoses. Continue reading

Two men with Down syndrome working on their phones.

Spring Seminar: Employment for Youth with Disabilities: Seeing a Brighter Future

“As an employer, I’ve been fortunate to have employees with intellectual disabilities who meaningfully contribute to our programs, and as a mother, I have been so proud of my own son with Down syndrome as he has worked in the community at a grocery store and is also working toward a career as a photographer, and I don’t think these are isolated cases of what success can look like. People with intellectual disabilities have much to offer when given the opportunity!” – Stephanie Meredith

Our Spring Seminar on “Employment for Youth with Disabilities: Seeing a Brighter Future” was held on Thursday, March 21, 2019 from 6:30 – 8:30pm ET, and it’s available now online.

The seminar was held at the UK Coldstream Research Campus Human Development Institute Training Room 1525 Bull Lea Road, Lexington KY. A link to the live video stream of the seminar was sent to registrants. Continue reading

People sitting around a table at the community conversation.

KentuckyWorks holds Community Conversation in Louisville

by Amanda Kelley Corbin

Self-advocates, families, and professionals gathered for a community conversation to discuss employment opportunities for individuals with significant disabilities on Monday, December 4th at Down Syndrome of Louisville. The event was facilitated by KentuckyWorks and had three co-sponsors—Down Syndrome of Louisville, the Kentucky Autism Training Center, and the Center for Accessible Living—the most co-sponsorship of any community conversation thus far. Continue reading

Photo of Harold Kleinert, Stephanie Meredith, and Sean Roy

Perspectives on Youth and Family Engagement

By Amanda Kelley Corbin

Sean Roy (right), who is the Youth Employment Solutions (YES!) Center’s state liaison to Kentucky and a training associate with TransCen (adapted from “Transition Center”), a national nonprofit organization that specializes in school-to-work transition for students with disabilities, was a guest speaker at a recent KentuckyWorks community conversation and parent engagement training session. Before the events, he provided his perspectives on youth and family engagement around employment for students with disabilities. Continue reading