Focusing on Employment
October marks the beginning of National Disability Employment Awareness Month . It could not come at a better time for me because I’ve seen my job responsibilities at Autism Speaks focus more on the emphasis of employment services for young adults. For example, a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a small business Town Hall in New York to engage in a discussion focused on employment-related issues for those with autism. This I learned was part of an ongoing series of small business Town Halls hosted by Autism Speaks, which will be happening around the country in the next few months.
In the NYC Town Hall there was a panel that led the overall conversation, which consisted of four small businesses that currently hire and provide job training for individuals with autism. The businesses involved were the Autistic Global Initiative  (AGI), Rising Tide Car Wash , Extraordinary Ventures  and [Words] Bookstore . I’ve had the opportunity to meet the leader of AGI in Val Paradiz many times in the past along with Jonah Zimiles who owns [Words] Bookstore. The other two businesses I wasn’t aware of but was thrilled to have the opportunity to hear more from.
My specific role in this event was to provide social media coverage for Autism Speaks social networks. After the event was over, it hit me that there were several more small business Town Halls to come! This excites me because at the end of each one I’ll be able to read a recap on the findings and hopefully learn more about different businesses helping our community. In a nutshell, I think that’s what National Disability Employment Awareness Month is all about in terms of autism. At it’s core I’ve always thought of this as an awareness campaign to help better educate businesses that it’s time to start employing more adults with autism, as well as letting those in the autistic community know of opportunities for them.
So for the rest of the month I’m excited to continue reading more about these Town Halls and hope it betters my understanding of adult services. As an adult on the spectrum, I would say I have a decent knowledge of this area but am in need of improvement. As I’ve only had one full time job in my life for under a year, I am going to take this month and these items to help myself and hopefully educate others like myself who are just starting out in the workplace, and the thousands not there yet.
One thing that comes to my mind is that outside of the urgent need for employers to develop jobs and hire individuals from the autism community is also the opportunity to encourage individuals with autism to become entrepreneurs by starting their own businesses. For example, I recently published my first book, “Defining Autism from the Heart .” So in addition to my full-time job, I also have my part-time job with the book. This week I had my first official book signing at [Words] Bookstore in Maplewood, NJ.
Now [Words] is helping me promote my book. I bring this up because I know not everyone in our community can handle a full-time job. There is still income to be made though in part-time employment. I can attest to this from my experience. Many other autistic adults create marketable items as well. We have to get out of the mindset that we can't do things, that we can’t be employed.
October is going to be an exciting month! I can’t wait.