Province adds to support for job seekers with autism

People with autism looking for jobs and those already in the workplace will get more help under a new provincial program.

The province has committed $1.4 million, to be paid over three years, that will provide employment supports and services, including coaching, for people with autism spectrum disorder.

It’s the first time a Nova Scotia government has invested in the need for enhanced services and funding support for adults with autism. Historically, government has focused on early intervention supports, which are critical and much needed, but the new funding represents a significant investment across the spectrum, said Cynthia Carroll, executive director of Autism Nova Scotia.

The new funding also will help support more people in rural areas through regional centres, Carroll said in interview Wednesday.

“We’re really excited about this announcement because it does multiple things,” she said. “One, it provides the opportunity for individualized employment support and coaching, based on the needs of the autistic job seeker, so that’s something that we’re really pleased to see.”

As well, the organization hopes it will improve outcomes for job-seekers graduating from high school.

“If you’re graduating from high school and maybe not going onto post-secondary, are there some vocational or employment programs that high school students can transition (into)?”

It’s also the first time job support funding hasn’t hinged on the applicant’s IQ, which, based on the research is not a very effective marker for support, Carroll said. “It’s based on the individualized need for each job seeker that is moving toward the labour market.”

Autism Nova Scotia has a job seekers’ database into which anyone looking for work can upload their resume. There are now about 350 people in that database, Carroll said, who are actively reporting to the organization that they’re looking for work.

Autism Nova Scotia job coaches work with job seekers and those already on the job in collaboration with employers.

“What a job coach may do in the workplace is really going to be dependent on the employment goals of that particular employee,” Carroll said.

“They can also provide support outside of the workplace, so not necessarily on the job but outside of the job, and really, this is incredibly helpful.

“So how to navigate things like the lunchroom, how to ask for accommodations if needed by a supervisor or manager. We even have some individuals on the spectrum who have come to us to ask how do they disclose that they’re on the spectrum to their employer. So it’s so very individualized but this funding allows the flexibility for each job seeker to have their needs met.”

Source: Herald News

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