Our world has turned upside down. What we have to do now for our own physical health and the health of our community is the opposite of what we want to be doing for the development of our young women with autism.
Yes She Can’s job skills development program at Girl AGain is one of the few opportunities our participants have to engage with peers face to face, and to interact with the public where they are in a position to demonstrate skills and provide value.
As a parent of a young adult with autism, I have had 22 years of experience striving to have structured days and meaningful activities for skill development and to ensure emotional stability in our home. I know how hard this stay-at-home requirement is for individuals and families affected by autism.
So it has been our top priority to provide continuity of our program. Lesli Cattan, our Director of Training Program and our coaches Jennifer and Laura have been working overtime to create a virtual experience of job skills coaching and socializing. At the same time, our social workers are focused on easing the anxiety levels of the trainees.
In the past two weeks we have taught every trainee how to use Zoom video conferencing tools and how to access our shared Google documents from their home computer. We have had several full team Zoom meetings, and every trainee has already started coaching in pairs with one of our coaches.
Trainees are learning how to generalize the skills they have acquired at Girl AGain. That means learning that accessing the shared Google documents is exactly the same process regardless of what computer you use or what desk you are sitting at. Because of concrete thinking, the ability to generalize is challenging for people on the spectrum.
Video conferencing can really be challenging when everyone is talking over each other. Listening skills are more crucial than ever in this setting.
We are adding more to our curriculum including modules on job exploration and networking. And we will be seeking volunteers to join us on a call to discuss their work experiences with trainees. I am particularly excited about this because it’s been on my to-do list for a while, and now is the right time to get it started.
My greatest fear is that the momentum that has been created in employment through the Autism @ Work movement could be lost. I hope we won’t experience a setback as businesses downsize in response to the financial impact of the social distancing policies.
Yes She Can is persevering to enable our participants to retain skills, gain new ones, maintain social connections, and ease anxiety.
This article by Lesli Cattan was written before our move to the virtual world, but still applies:
Autism Spectrum News article : Addressing the Female-Specific Challenges of Autism at Yes She Can
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