Every student deserves a full and functioning education that makes use of their best abilities and emphasizes life skills, whether it’s during the elementary, middle school, secondary, or post-secondary years. During the latter years, it’s important to help students learn about the options that are available to them once they get old enough to join the workforce.

For many Americans, their work is an essential piece of a full, productive life. With tens of thousands of people who deal with autism becoming eligible to join the workforce every year, access to proper opportunities, pre-employment training, and transition programs is critical to their success.

Meeting the Demands of the Labor Market

Youths on the autism spectrum may suffer greater disconnection from the workforce than their peers. According to a report released in 2015, as many as half of all autistic youth don’t have the proper education, opportunities, or training and transition programs to become successful in the workforce.

Less than 6 in every 10 high school graduates with autism go on to find appropriate employment after they graduate (just 58%, on average). Adults with autism also have less of a presence in the work force than do their peers with different disabilities.

The lower rates of employment among autistic youths may be a reflection of a dearth of:

Guidance about career paths
Services that focus on pre-employment training and evaluation
Vocational education or on-the-job training
Support services intended to help students make a smooth transition from school to the workforce or into a continuing education environment.

IDEA, or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, mandates that certain services be made available to students to help them prepare more effectively for their day-to-day lives following high school graduation.

However, some of these programs and services are overlooked because the people that should know about them, don’t. Anyone working in special education should be aware of the services mandated by the IDEA, as should general education teachers, guidance and career counselors, students, and parents.

Individuals who are on the autism spectrum have every right to the opportunity to contribute to society at large by being a productive, independent member of it. By holding a job, paying taxes, and living as independently as possible, individuals with autism can make the most of the opportunities with which they’re presented. IDEA mandates the services be provided, but the Career and Transition Services (CATS) offered at Sarah Dooley makes these tools available and easily accessible.

CATS at Sarah Dooley

Sarah Dooley Center for Autism offers the dual benefit of being small enough to examine and meet the needs of individual students, while also being large enough for those students to have the highest quality of education and social interaction opportunities.

Providing services for children ranging from kindergarten through the senior year of high school, Sarah Dooley primarily exists to educate students who have been diagnosed with a range of disabilities, from emotional difficulties to health problems, autism spectrum disorders, and beyond.

With attendance at Dooley School comes a plethora of integrated services from St. Joseph’s Villa, specifically designed to help students prepare for independence after graduation. On-staff counselors and teachers give students the tools they need to build peer relationships and become successful within the community.

CATS is part of a comprehensive effort to help students achieve as much as possible following the completion of school. The program makes partnerships with local businesses to help students get real-world, hands-on job experience. This experience helps students get a feel for what’s expected when entering the workforce while also helping them develop the skills they’ll need to hold a job.

The goal of CATS is to help each student become productive, to envision a future that’s both stimulating and rewarding, and achieve the goal of attaining it.

To start the process, school staff performs an initial assessment, which is then used to help each student craft a plan for the future. Students are encouraged to build skills for problem solving, effective communication, and creating networks among their peers, while also being urged to gain knowledge about the opportunities for both their career and their life after school.

These skills are made part of instruction in the classroom, and offered through hands-on experiences, as well.

Making the Transition

Youths with autism can benefit greatly from transition services and hands-on learning experiences, as well as an education that emphasizes learning real-world skills. Making a smooth transition from school to the work place also makes a big difference in how successful people on the autism spectrum are in their lives after graduation.

Services available at Sarah Dooley, such as CATS, are essential to success both in holding a job and living independently. To learn more about CATS and other programs from Sarah Dooly, contact us online or call us at 804-521-5571.

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