Pre-employment program for people with autism starting on the South Shore

·2 min read

A program aimed at helping people with autism find and keep work is coming to the South Shore.

EmploymentWorks (EW) is a free pre-employment program for autistic youth and adults with autism that offers employment preparedness training and support.

It was first offered in Halifax in 2015 and is hosted by Autism Nova Scotia.

“We’re excited for it to be able to expand to our region and what that looks like in building inclusions with individuals with autism in Lunenburg and Queens Counties,” said Rachel Whynot, autism support coordinator with the South Shore Chapter of Autism Nova Scotia.

According to the latest statistics (2018) from the National Autism Spectrum Disorder Surveillance System, one in 66 children are on the Autism Spectrum Disorder, which translates to about 14,500 Nova Scotians.

The 24-week program, slated to begin in May, is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities program.

The program is designed for individuals over the age of 15 who are not attending high school and who are autistic and/or have autism. They should be motivated to find a job and able to commit to program sessions for about five hours per week.

The idea is to empower individuals to build skills and reach employment goals and develop confidence. It targets individualized goals for each participant, addressing social-communication and employment-related skills. Goals are determined based on observation, evaluation tools and client input.

The program will be split into three sessions, according to information found on the Autism Nova Scotia website. The first, to be run out of Bridgewater, is a structured learning session where participants engage in motivating learning activities regarding important social-communication and employment-related skills.

Topics include resumes and cover letters, greetings, clothing and hygiene, networking, expected behaviours, giving and receiving feedback, and coping with stress. Participants also will practise searching for jobs each week and will be supported to build independence in completing job applications and attending interviews.

The second session will see the participants have the opportunity to apply their learned skills in a real work environment through job shadowing at a workplace.

The third phase supports the transition from weekly programming and job sampling to active job seeking and employment.

To register, or for more information, contact Jessica McKee Mitchell at jmckeemitchell@autismns.ca or call 902-593-1015 ext. 3051.

Kevin McBain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin