KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A new program in Kansas City is connecting people with autism to employment.
The program, LINK, designed by Easterseals Midwest, is the first program of its kind and is specifically for adults with autism. LINK is for adults who want assistance finding employment and support in developing vital workplace skills.
“There are more than 3.5 million Americans diagnosed with autism,” said Martha Jaynes, director of employment and community services for Easterseals Midwest in Kansas City. “Thirty-five percent of young adults (ages 19-23) with autism have not had a job or received postgraduate education. LINK is a way to reduce those numbers and assist individuals with autism to find and maintain a meaningful career.”
The 7-10 session program provides guidance in a peer-group setting. Specially trained Easterseals staff give participants individual and group instruction to assist them in developing skills such as how to have professional and appropriate conversations, handle job duties and responsibilities, and how to work as part of a team.
Easterseals staff support program participants as they begin the process of job search and exploration, develop their applications and resumés and prepare for interviews, which includes mock interviews.
“This program is needed to support individuals who are on the spectrum find and maintain meaningful employment,” Jaynes said. “While social interactions, proper attire, workplace culture and relationships can be challenging for anyone, these areas can be especially challenging for people dealing with autism.”
Enterseals Midwest partners with a number of large companies, as well as local ones:
Enterprise Rental Car
Worlds of Fun
Roll on Industries
Savers Thrift Store
The Kansas City program is only weeks old. Jaynes said the only way to show that it works is by helping young adults find and maintain careers.
The program is funded by the Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education’s Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program. The VR program specializes in employment and training services for individuals that have a disability that keeps them from finding, keeping or advancing in a job.