1. Supporting teens with autism as they begin their journey towards employment

    For a person with Autism Spectrum Disorder (“ASD”), the road to adulthood can be very challenging, especially when gathering the training they need to find meaningful work. According to a report published by the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, young adults with ASD have lower employment rates and higher rates of complete social isolation than those with other disabilities. This is understandable, as the demands of acquiring a job-- unpredictable stimuli, dynamic circumstances, new social interactions-- can be difficult for anyone to meet. Compounded with the drop-off in services and support available for youth with ASD after high school, many young adults with ASD are often unable to successfully enter the workforce upon graduating. Greater support must be provided to these young adults, so they can enjoy the significant benefits of employment, such as greater financial independence, increased self-confidence, and a place for socialization.

    With the goal of improving work readiness and enhancing employment skills of individuals with ASD, The See Things My Way (STMW) Centre for Innovation in Autism & Intellectual Disabilities (CIAID) proudly offers Worktopia pre-employment programs. Worktopia is a national project funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities Program, with a network of programs across seven provinces. Worktopia offers three employment-readiness programs for individuals with ASD, all designed to provide individuals with ASD an opportunity to build social and workplace skills within an accepting environment. Two of these Worktopia programs, EmploymentWorks Canada (EWC) and CommunityWorks Canada® (CWC), were implemented in Quebec for the first time in 2017 by the STMW Centre for Innovation.

    After a successful launch of EWC, CWC became the second Worktopia program to be offered in Montreal, during fall 2017. CWC is a 10-week pre-employment training program offered to youth with ASD, providing them with different volunteer experiences each week, allowing them to explore and practice their workplace interests. Each weekly session is structured to include work sampling, as well as guided activities focused on improving social communication skills. A unique aspect of this program is the inclusion of peer mentors- neurotypical young adults of the same age- who volunteer alongside youth with ASD and assist program staff in helping participants achieve their individual program goals. 

    Our first CWC cohort, consisting of six teenagers with ASD and seven peer mentors, collaborated with six different community partners throughout the fall of 2017. Each organization - the Ronald McDonald House, McGill University, Westmount Public Library, Spectrum Productions, MADA Community Centre, and the Gold Centre - demonstrated excellent community stewardship by offering CWC volunteers the opportunity to learn new skills within a safe and embracing environment. Highlights of the sessions include participating in the McGill University and Westmount Public Library book sales, advertising for the Spectrum Productions 8th Annual Screening Gala, and preparing food donations the MADA Community Centre. Each session, CWC volunteers were asked to adapt to a variety of environments and task requirements, a challenge which they readily met with enthusiasm and open minds! The outstanding performance by our CWC volunteers is demonstrated by the fact that many of our community partners expressed the desire to collaborate with other Worktopia programs in the future!

    As the first edition of CWC came to a close, young adults with autism graduated from the program with enhanced workplace and communication skills, new friendships, and a better sense of what being employed really means. CWCimpacted not only our participants with ASD, but also peer mentors and community partners, who now recognize the value of individuals with ASD in the workplace. The STMW Centre for Innovation is excited to launch another cohort of CommunityWorks Canada® in February 2018. And of course, keep an eye out for two more editions of EmploymentWorks Canada in May and September 2018, with preparations well underway!

    To learn more or to register to our EWC program in 2019, contact Rakhee Chowdhury at [email protected] or 514-709-7869.

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  2. Worktopia: improving future employment prospects for youth with Autism

    Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental disability affecting 1 in 68 people (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014). Many individuals with ASD experience lifelong challenges in areas of social communication as well as restricted and repetitive behaviours. With the help of early intervention programs and specialized education, children with ASD come a long way to develop the skills required to reach their full potential. However, for a person with ASD, the road to adulthood can be very challenging, especially when gathering the training they need to find meaningful work.

    The truth is that many adults with ASD struggle with employment. And we can understand why: finding and securing a job, managing unpredictable circumstances, fostering relationships with employers and coworkers, and budgeting earnings can be very demanding. But on the flipside, the right job can improve one’s self worth, lead to greater independence and really be something to look forward to!

    With the aim of creating vocational initiatives for individuals with ASD and/or Intellectual Disability (ID), the See Things My Way Centre for Innovation in collaboration with Action Main d’Oeuvre inc. is participating in Worktopia, a unique national project funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities Program. Worktopia programs emphasize community participation and leadership by empowering youth with ASD and helping them develop the skills necessary to obtain sustainable paid employment. This year, for the first time, Québec features among the seven provinces across Canada to offer Worktopia programs.

    The first Worktopia program offered by the Centre is called EmploymentWorks Canada, and is a 12-week pre-employability training program that paves the road to future employment for young adults with ASD, aged 15-29. The program involves structured learning sessions, where participants develop strategies to explore their interests and their goals, to overcome challenges that may arise in the workplace, and to acquire communication and social skills. The program also encourages the community to provide autism-friendly environments where participants can build confidence, contribute their efforts, and put their skills into practice in different settings.

    For its first edition, inaugurated in January 2017, EmploymentWorks Canada (Québec) collaborated with a variety of workplace partners to provide 8 adults with ASD with opportunities to practice their learnings. These partners -- Marianopolis College, KOTV Productions, The Gold Centre’s MateriaTech, Lou Greenberg-Miriam Association, as well as the NDG Food Depot -- not only demonstrated wonderful community integration, but also allowed our participants to contribute their talents and to explore their interests in the areas of foodservice, TV series production, and rehabilitation services. Throughout these experiences, all 8 individuals were able to showcase their personalities to their fullest. Our participants made their own recipes of Sloppy Joe’s for the students at Marianopolis, helped with the production of hundreds of food boxes for the residents of the NDG neighbourhood, and even interacted with the actors on the set of the TV show, Conseils de Famille! With their positive attitudes and willingness to learn, they were met with enthusiasm at each visit -- with many work sites eager to welcome us back!

    As our first edition of EmploymentWorks Canada (Québec) comes to an end, participants feel more prepared than ever to transition towards future employment, having gained lasting friendships and a whole new set of skills and experiences under their belt. The next step is a unique characteristic of EmploymentWorks Canada (Québec): each participant will continue to explore their employment possibilities on a individual basis with the ongoing support of a specialized career counsellor at Action Main D’Oeuvre inc.. Hence, the journey continues!

    For the years 2017 and 2018, The See Things My Way Centre for Innovation is thrilled to launch 3 additional editions of EmploymentWorks Canada (Quebec), as well as the two editions of CommunityWorks Canada®, (CWC). CWC is a pre-employability program that aims to improve job readiness among teens and young adults with ASD, aged 15-21, through volunteer opportunities. Starting in fall 2017, many more young adults with ASD will enroll in these programs to foster the development of important skills and to seek opportunities for future employment -- and we cannot wait to let you know how it goes!

    To learn more, visit:

    To participate in our programs as a participant, peer mentor, employer, or volunteer, please contact Carrie Mazoff at [email protected]

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  3. Autism Spectrum Disorder: Questions to ask your intervention provider


    Autism Spectrum Disorder: Questions to ask your intervention provider

    The best thing you can do for your child and family is to be informed. Here is a guide on how to pick your service provider.

    When choosing a professional, you want to ensure that person is qualified, experienced and able to meet the individual needs of your child and family.

    Who can supervise a program?

    In Quebec, the individuals should be:

    1. Accredited;

    2. Members of a registered college; or

    3. Belong to a professional order and should have experience in supervising intervention programs.

    This ensures that the individual has had the appropriate training, knowledge, skills and ethical guidelines. Board Certified Behaviour Analysts (BCBA) have also received intensive training and have a code of ethics.

    What do you know about your professional?

    Have they offered services to children with autism? How many years of practice do they have? Are they part of an interdisciplinary team that include other professionals that will work on your child’s team (psychology, speech and language pathology, occupational therapy, etc.)? Ask for references.

    Feeling pressured?

    If so, trust your judgement. A service provider with whom you will entrust your child’s education should make you feel at ease.  Also, look for non-profit options. If you feel pressured, walk away, it’s not right for your family.

    A good ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis) program should entail:  early intervention, intensity 20-40 hours per week, individual and group intervention, naturalistic approach, fun and non-punitive approach, duration of intervention that varies on the child's individual needs

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  4. Creating pathways to innovation for autism in Quebec: why not?

    As the date for the Quebec Autism Forum approaches, many of us are thinking about how Quebec can begin to address the overwhelming and growing needs of our individuals and families touched by autism spectrum disorder.
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