Worktopia: improving future employment prospects for youth with Autism

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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