This program hopes to connect autistic adults with opportunities
RICHMOND, Va. – April is Autism Awareness Month and according to some parents, resources to support people with autism are becoming harder to find as children get older.
Carissa Garabedian is one such parent.
His son Marky Garabedian is expected to graduate in May. She said that in her search for postgraduate programs, she struggled to find anything, whether to further her education or find a job.
Marky was first diagnosed with autism when he was two years old.
“Everything he does is a little harder and he doesn’t ask for anything. And just goes with the flow and adapts. It’s a sweet daily reminder of his innocence and the peace he brings,” said she declared.
Months away from graduating, Garabedian said finding resources for Marky inside and outside of school has been an uphill battle.
“Once he got to high school, there was really nothing available,” Garabedian said. “He’s always trying to figure it out and create pockets that might work.”
Marky was accepted into VCU’s Project Search, the one-year program that gives people with disabilities the opportunity to gain work experience.
Dr. Caroll Schall is co-director of VCU’s School of Autism Excellence.
“They still have a teacher, but they also have a job coach. And the whole point of the program is to teach you how to work,” she explained.
Garabedian is happy to have found it, but said it was one of the few programs available. According to Forbes, the unemployment rate for people with autism is around 80%, a figure the two women believe should be much lower.
“They are just as able and capable of being full citizens contributing to our society as anyone else.” says Dr. Schall. “We found that people with autism often have strengths that their non-disabled peers don’t.”
She said that in addition to postgraduate programs, she encourages more employers to hire young adults like Marky.
“Really think of people with autism as a gift they could give their employees to help them really do their job,” Schall said. “That people with autism really contribute to increasing the diversity of thought and the diversity of ways of working. .”
As Marky continues to piece together the puzzle of life, her mother hopes others will find a place for pieces like Marky in their puzzles.
“If others opened their doors, I can’t even imagine what it would be like,” she said.