People with autism facing employment challenges

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Parade Magazine featured a 20-year-old woman with autism April 3, highlighting the challenges of integrating people with autism into the workforce.

Dana Eisman, grew up attending a private school for special needs students. Despite having many similar characteristics of other young adults, she is unable to hold a conversation, cross the street alone, or do other basic skills necessary for working independently in the workforce. Her family, like that of many of the estimated 500,000 children with autism who will graduate from the U.S. school system this year, is worried about her job prospects.

“It’s like a splash of cold water in your face,” says Robin Heyd of New Jersey, who son Eric is 20. “You’re devastated twice: first, with the diagnosis; then, year later, when you realize that after all the interventions, you still have a kid with autism and you have to plan his future.”

Nationwide there are about 14,400 programs for children with autism. For adult programs, such as vocation job training programs, there are just 3,500 for adults with autism. According to one study, just 20 percent of people with autism are employed. Of those employed, 60 percent are thought to be underemployed or paid below-market wages.

About one in 110 children in the U.S. are born with autism each year, a figure that has been rising by 10 to 17 percent a year.

The Parade Website also includes stories from six other families with children with autism facing similar situations.