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Human Development Institute

University Center for
Excellence in Disabilities

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Innovative Supports for Autistic Workers: Expanding Employment Opportunities

Published: November 7, 2019

Innovative Supports for Autistic Workers (ISAW) began as a project to educate and support Kentucky Career Centers’ Business Service Teams in their understanding of issues relevant to autism and employment. In 2017, ISAW made its services available to all human resource professionals in the state. Through consultation, face-to-face training sessions, web-based modules, and ongoing services and supports, employers will be able to increase their competence and confidence in hiring and supervising workers on the autism spectrum.

Innovative Supports for Autistic Workers trainings are provided at no cost and can be delivered at a convenient location or by webinar. Participants will increase their skills and knowledge about interview techniques, problem solving, accommodations, and many other topics.

These trainings were developed by Bev Harp, whose understanding of autism comes from personal experience, peer-reviewed literature, and experience working with other autistic adults. Bev explains,

Unemployment is a huge problem for autistic adults nationwide. In Kentucky, unemployment rates hover around 85%, higher than any other disability. With this project, we want to address the reservations that employers may have, as well as preconceived ideas about autism and what autistic workers are able to do. There is a level of discomfort, even for some diversity-minded employers, with unfamiliar body language, or unusual ways of communication. With ISAW, we talk about some of the reasons behind autistic differences and provide opportunities for employers to ask questions. For some employers we’ve worked with, this is the first time they have ever (knowingly) engaged with autistic adults in the workplace. This is such an important step, getting to know us, recognizing that our skills and interests are as diverse as those of any other group. Autistic workers can bring unique perspectives and talents that businesses need. ISAW is here to help make those connections.

Innovative Supports for Autistic Workers is funded through the Kentucky Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and Kentucky’s Advisory Board on Autism Spectrum Disorder and administered by the University of Kentucky Human Development Institute. Additional information is available at the ISAW website http://isaw.hdiuk.org/.

Schedule your consultation by contacting Bev at baharp2@uky.edu.