April is World Autism Awareness month, a great time to raise awareness of the plight of youth living with this disability as well as many other disabilities.
As a physician who serves many of these young adults, and as co-chair of the Howard County Commission for Transitioning Students with Disabilities, I am reaching out to people who own small businesses, people who work for large corporations, or people who simply have a heart to provide a ‘hand up’ to those who are less privileged: please consider creating job opportunities within your organization for youth with disabilities.
Many of these students will remain in High School till age 21, after which real life kicks in. Many are unable to earn a High School Diploma – they will graduate with a ‘Certificate of Completion’. Their education is focused on the acquisition of Academic Life Skills, though some may be trained for an employable trade. Think of the many people who bag our groceries, clean our buildings, greet us at the door of a very popular large retailer…. you get my point. But these opportunities are few.
Regardless of whatever breaks Uncle Sam may provide for businesses who hire youth with disabilities, we know that “the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members”. We are a strong, supportive, and caring society. If ever there was any doubt about this, the events of the last two years have dispelled those doubts. There are many of you who would step up, if only you knew how. This post is for you. Please go to www.projectsearch.us and take the next step. Additional information is available at https://askearn.org/page/disability-inclusion-in-the-workplace. And if you are local (in Howard County, Maryland) please feel free to send me a direct message.
For those who already suspect and others who may be wondering: yes, our youngest child, now 17 years old, is also living with autism. No, she is not high functioning, and will not graduate with a High School Diploma. But she is really good at helping with the laundry, making her bed, loading the dishwasher and straightening up the living room. And she sings like an angel.
But this post is not about my daughter because, unlike many of the patients I serve, my daughter is privileged to be growing up in a middle-class family with the kind of love and support that many of my patients have never known. She has 3 older siblings who are in college and who will care for her when her parents are no longer able to. She lives in one of the most affluent counties in the United States and therefore has access to services that students like her in many other counties do not. This post is about the many young adults living with autism and other disabilities who have employable workplace skills but lack the ability to advocate for themselves.
If because of this post, just one person creates just one opportunity within their organization for just one young person within their community, my mission would have been accomplished.