Upon aging out of the school system and many assistance programs, several challenges await young adults and learners with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). One of the most pertinent is the desire and need to enter the work force. Without proper guidance and resources, gaining employment can be an overwhelming hurdle to clear. Fortunately, adults with autism can find guides to support them in searching for work through the assistance of job coaches.

“Aging out is a difficult thing because they’ve had services in school, then all of a sudden they have no services.” says Tara Potter, Director of Trio Employment Network.

A job coach specifically for adults with autism, Potter now works out of the PURE Empowerment Center, located at the Marcus Pointe Baptist Church in Pensacola. According to Potter, it can be difficult for adults with autism trying to find suitable services in job hunting, aware that such “services are very limited [with] the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.” However, some efforts have been made to give these individuals the support they need, including “a grant called ABLE Trust Grant that is dedicated specifically for supported employment. So they can go to the APD [and] apply with them, [plus] try to get that [grant] which is $5,000 a year. I know that sounds like a lot, but it’s really not a lot when you’re working with a job coach to try to find something that fits your skills and abilities.”

A federal grant allocated for helping adults with disabilities, including any ASD diagnosis, acquire the skills needed to find employment, the ABLE trust is available even to those placed on a wait list for other services and grants. Potter also reaches out to employers within the community who would be open to cooperating in the employment of young men and women with autism, providing them a suitable job and atmosphere that won’t overwhelm or impede them.
At the PURE Empowerment Center, Potter also emphasizes education for life and social skills in addition to job skills.

“It’s not just about getting the job, it’s about keeping the job too,” Potter says.

Individuals under her guidance are taught various life skills that, in turn, aid in job seeking, such as grooming and other social-based skills of conversation, collaboration, and more.

By focusing on a person’s strengths rather than any disabilities, Potter represents a fine example in the benefits job coaches bring to young adults and learners with ASD, helping them enrich not only their employment history but their lives as well.

The original story can be found at wuwf.org.

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