IMPLORE BUSINESSES: Commit to Employ People on the Autism Spectrum
By Tracy Powell-Rudy (née Wolff) When I graduated from Horace Greeley High School in 1980, the national incidence rate for autism was 1 in 10,000. When my son started at Grafflin Elementary School in Chappaqua in the 1990s, it had risen to 1 in 2,500. By the time my daughter was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (AS)+ early in the new millennium, the autism incidence rate was 1 in 150.
tone and can have a hard time making eye contact. As a result, and despite the aforementioned strengths–and I
is able to navigate the complexities of a college campus and the rigors of a college curriculum at higher institutions of learning such as Rutgers, RIT, Oberlin, Brandeis, Skidmore, Columbia, and the CUNY and SUNY systems. Indeed, many colleges and universities now provide strong support programs and services for individuals with Asperger’s. Likewise, forward-thinking companies, especially those that see the benefits of creating diverse and inclusive work environments, are working towards doing the same. “The Best Kind of Support System” Though Luke spoke later than most children his age, today he speaks with thoughtful clarity and unique insight. Likewise, though he acknowledges that networking is not his strongest suit, Luke credits his elementary school with offering the “best kind of support system, the best kind of environment” in which to grow. He further credits his parents with making sure his education was centered on the fact that he just processed things differently than his peers did.
Luke graduated from SUNY Purchase in May of 2014 with a B.A. in Liberal Studies and has since worked in various video production internship positions. He currently works in the Document Management department at the UnitTracy and Luke, following their (ASTEP’s) featured presentation ed States Attorney’s Office in at LinkedIn’s InDay On the surface, the Brooklyn, where he preps case statistics alone can be files to be digitally archived. daunting. However, with early interspeak from prior experience as princiWhile the position appeals to Luke as vention, many children with an autism pal of a retained executive search firm an active visual worker, and requires diagnosis are going on to graduate –AS individuals are often screened out an acute attention to detail that most from high school, and over one-third of during the initial interview process. do not possess, it nonetheless quickly those high school graduates are going becomes clear to anyone lucky enough on to some form of post-secondary to chat with Luke that the work is not education including college*. That’s the Greeley Grad (’80) Meets commensurate with his experience and good news. The not-so-good news: of Greeley Grad (’09) skill set. Almost hesitantly, Luke acthe one-third who do attend college, Last fall, I met and began workknowledges this. The situation reveals 75-85% are unemployed or undereming with a local young man who was a few remarkable takeaways: the first is ployed after graduation, compared diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome at Luke’s positive yet unyieldingly honest with the 28% unemployment rate for age nine in 2000 and who, like me, also approach. The second is a clear illustraall college graduates**. graduated from Greeley. His name is tion of the underemployment issue. Luke Davis***. In many ways, individuals with ASTEP Steps In Asperger’s or similar autism spectrum After spending time with Luke, I Founded by Marcia Scheiner in profiles are ideal employees. They often was hard-pressed to understand why 2010, ASTEP is a 501(c)3 organization have a solid work ethic, strongly adhere the unemployment rate for individuproviding consulting services in the to rules and are direct and very honest. als with Asperger’s is so high. Luke, form of assessment, sensitivity awareOn the other hand, they can also be along with many other young adults ness and accommodation training, very literal, speak with a professorial who have worked c