HI! I’m Rendi, an OT Capstone student from Baylor University- SIC’ EM BEARS!
I am here at CEPT for 14 weeks to complete my capstone project, “CHANCE” that develops vocational materials and skills for individuals with autism seeking employment. Everything in this program works together to improve education and performance for the autistic population seeking sustaining employment. The program aims to merge the understanding and importance for community supporting the individual with autism throughout the employment process. Great potential lies within occupational therapy to refine and make a difference for a capable population that is unfortunately often overlooked. I am working to change the gaps in materials and resources by creating a relevant gauging tool for determining (strengths and weaknesses) within the workplace and creating new marketing materials that support self-promotion. During this program, participants will learn and strengthen essential vocational skills they will come across in the workplace, along with the opportunity to personalize skills to their specific job environment if the participant already has employment.
CEPT was the perfect location for me because the foundation of a program that is developed with a strong passion of having availability for transitioning individuals with autism to help achieve their goals when it comes to pre-vocational needs already exists.
I created this program because many programs help individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) throughout childhood, but once an individual with ASD transitions into adolescence or adulthood, the available programs and services essentially diminish. According to Erik Erikson, psychologist of human development, adolescents strive to become more independent during this period and begin to acquire future roles regarding relationships, housing, families, and careers (Mcleod, 2018). Studies have shown over 61% of individuals with autism have a goal to transition and work in the community (Gilson & Carter, 2016). Entering the workforce is a foundation of our identity, and Employers should give the opportunity to work to any person despite possible limitations.
The Center for Disease Control estimates one in every 54 children is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020). Autism is a bio-neurological disorder that affects brain development and can lead to deficits in social interactions like communication and cognitive function (National Autism Association). Interpretation of social cues and situations can be difficult for anyone. Still, for individuals with autism, social challenges, lack of support and resources, personal factors, and environment can be found as barriers in the currently available evidence requiring this topic. These factors can be all-consuming and widely affect their chances of gaining and sustaining employment.
Evidence is clear that early intervention makes all the difference when working with individuals with autism. Tiffany Kodak and Samantha Bergmann, in their article concerning ASD and early intervention, say it best, “Strategies to prevent and intervene early on behavioral excesses and deficits associated with ASD can reduce the child’s level of impairment in adaptive, educational, and behavioral skills.” Even as early as Pre-K, children are asked to answer, “what do you want to be when you grow up” though the pressure isn’t as severe at this age, the thought is set into motion. As they grow and make life decisions, expectations and choices are soon to come. The demand to make money to survive falls on everyone. Suppose an individual with autism cannot seem to find a job or make the cut for obtaining social security. In that case, 100% of the financial responsibilities and emotions fall on the caregiver for the remainder of the individual’s life; when these skills aren’t focused on throughout childhood or especially aren’t covered during a time such as transitioning into adulthood, the chances of individuals with autism obtaining and sustaining employment plummet.
My enthusiasm for this program’s success comes from a place of personal experience with my own family and a heart that yearns to help and serve others. I am so grateful and blessed with this opportunity to work with the CEPT staff especially Lead OT Jennah Critchfield and CEPT Owner and OT Autism Specialist Kate Lundgren. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and guiding me through this experience.
I also want to send a special shout-out to the clients and caregivers participating in my vocational skills program. Your time and efforts are so appreciated.
Feel free to reach out if you have any further questions concerning this program’s process or what CEPT has to offer.