EVANSTON, Ill. -- Employees with autism shared their on-the-job experiences as part of the Autism Speaks Midwest Employee Symposium March 12 at Northwestern University.
The daylong event at the Norris Center brought together people with autism, families, researchers, business owners, entrepreneurs and others to help address employment issues for adults with autism.
It’s estimated that 85 percent of adults with autism in the United States are currently unemployed or underemployed, a major concern in the autism community. Among young adults between 21 and 26 years old, only 50 percent have ever had a paid job outside of their household, according to Autism Speaks.
In opening remarks at the symposium, Molly Losh, associate professor and director of Northwestern’s Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Lab, and Denise Boggs Eisenhauer, a certified speech language pathologist, highlighted Northwestern’s dedication to the autism community through research, clinical services and strong community partnerships.
Working closely with local and national advocacy organizations, Losh started a Northwestern-based chapter of Project Search. The program places senior high-school students with autism in internships throughout the University to prepare them to enter the workforce after graduation.
Eisenhauer directs Northwestern’s Center for Audiology, Speech, Language, and Learning (NUCASSL), which offers a developmental diagnostic clinic for children ages zero to three who present with concerns related to social communication.
The event featureed several businesses that employ people with autism, including:
- 100% Wine, a St. Louis-based company that donates all profits to nonprofit organizations working to create jobs for people with a disability.
- Highland Park’s Aspirtech, which provides domestic software testing services.
- Sugar and Spice Extraordinary Sweet Treats in Evanston, which hires young adults with disabilities and runs a workplace training program for people with autism.
The Autism Speaks Midwest Employment Symposium was co-sponsored by Northwestern’s Center for Audiology, Speech, Language, and Learning (NUCASLL) and the Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Lab in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders.
In recognition of World Autism Awareness Day, Northwestern’s 100-foot clock tower, which stands in the middle of the Rebecca Crown Center, will glow blue on April 2.