Autism Program Manager Katrina Bradley is proud of the progress being made in the specialized employment services program, “Employment Solutions for People on the Autism Spectrum Program,” conducted at ServiceSource Delaware (SSDE). “We are committed to making people’s lives better, and this program is not only making the participants’ lives better, but also helping the businesses we work with be more diverse and inclusive workforces.”
Bradley notes that the program’s success over the past year has been very encouraging. “Twenty-five participants received a combination of assessment, socialization/communication skills training, job placement and job coaching services – a combination of services and supports that has proven effective in enabling people with autism spectrum disorders to obtain and retain jobs in the community.” Performance assessments on assignments with area businesses are a valuable feature of the program. For example, retail businesses afford job candidates the opportunity to stock shelves, work the cash register and interact with customers. These experiences help the individual gauge interest in that type work and the business evaluate if skill levels and demeanor meet the grade.
Thirteen program participants began community jobs, earning an average of $11.52 per hour plus employee benefits. SSDE Employment Consultant Liz Phillippy provides job coaching and follow-along services to recently employed Rebecca Lloyd. “Following an assessment phase, Rebecca began employment at the ACME, Pike Creek location, on January 29th as a bakery associate/front-end bagger. Her daily tasks include packaging and pricing bakery products and keeping the department clean and tidy. As a front-end bagger, she is responsible for placing groceries into bags, greeting customers and organizing the shopping carts. Her excellent performance and diligent work ethic haven’t gone unnoticed. Supervisors often call her in to work additional, unscheduled shifts.”
Strong working relationships with community referral agencies, like the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) and the Division of Developmental Disabilities Services, have enabled significant program growth and initiated new and innovative ways to expand employment opportunities for individuals on the autism spectrum in all three Delaware counties. SSDE staff also help participants navigate through other community services, like Asperger’s Alliance Group, which provides socialization and additional social skills awareness.
Financial support for the program comes from two primary sources: DVR provides fee-for-service funding to offset the cost of assessment, job coaching and job placement services, and a grant from the United Way of Delaware provides very important supplemental funding in support of individualized financial coaching and benefits counseling services.
In a 2014 autism prevalence report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that the prevalence of autism had risen to 1 in every 68 births in the United States – nearly twice as great as the 2004 rate of 1 in 125 – and almost 1 in 54 boys.
For more information about the program, contact Katrina Bradley at 302-765-1226.