Randolph, Mass. –– An estimated 500,000 adolescents with autism spectrum disorders will reach adulthood in the next 10 years – a projection that is already hitting home at May Institute.
The organization is responding to its own increasing numbers of maturing students by creating a highly specialized program – the Todd Fournier Center for Employment Training and Community Inclusion. The Center was named after a beloved May Institute teacher and job coach who lost his courageous battle with cancer in 2010.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 18.6 percent of people with disabilities were employed in 2010. “We know that the unemployment rates for young adults with autism are three to four times greater than young adults with other disabilities,” says Pamela Raymond, M.A., BCBA, Executive Vice President of Educational Services at May Institute. “The Center’s mission is to help improve these statistics and enhance our students’ life opportunities.”
Located on the campus of the May Center for Child Development in Randolph, Mass., this new school-within-a-school features an expanded vocational, academic, social, and life skills training facility to better prepare students for successful transitions from a school environment into the complex adult world, including the workplace.
What the program looks like
One of the Center’s strengths is its real-world orientation. “It is important for young people to learn and practice job and life skills in safe, controlled environments that look and function like actual work and community settings,” explains Scott Chausse, M.Ed., Director of Vocational Training. “But most critical is the opportunity to then generalize these skills by working in the community, side by side with other employees.”
When a student enters the Center, teachers and parents work together to develop the specific vocational goals for his or her individual education plan. When students turn 15, school staff assess their progress to determine if they may be able to do volunteer or paid work on campus. With the help of a job coach, many students are employed by the school to do jobs such as recycling, delivering mail, or working in the cafeteria.
When an aspiring student worker is ready to work in the community, he or she is placed in the most appropriate job available through the school’s employee/employer match program. As these young men and women first start their new jobs, they are accompanied by a job coach who will assist them. Over time, the students become more and more independent.
How being involved benefits businesses
Building relationships and developing a network of community businesses interested in providing jobs for vocational students, as well as having business owners on-site to consult with staff and interact with students directly, are key objectives for the Center.
“There is an untapped population of individuals with disabilities who can fill many positions, including those that some employers have difficulty filling. The key is for business owners to be able to experience that potential firsthand,” comments Mr. Chausse.
Arbella Insurance, based in Randolph, Mass., is one local community business that has embraced this valuable business model. “The opportunity to work with one of the Center’s students, Josh, was exactly what our department needed,” remarked Rachel Azizi of Arbella Insurance. “His honest nature and remarkable work ethic was inspiring, and reminded all of us that there is much satisfaction in a job well done.”
Other employers partnering with the Center include Papa Gino’s, the Massachusetts South Shore YMCA, BJ’s Wholesale Club, and VERC Enterprises. Sovereign Bank Foundation contributed a grant to help furnish the vocational classroom that is modeled after a hotel efficiency suite.
For information about how your company can get involved, contact Scott Chausse at email@example.com.
About May Institute
May Institute is an award-winning nonprofit organization with more than 55 years of experience in serving children and adults with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities, brain injury, mental illness, and behavioral health needs. The organization provides educational, rehabilitative, and behavioral healthcare services to individuals, as well as training and consultation services to professionals, organizations, and public school systems.
May Institute’s Centers for Child Development are private special education schools specifically serving children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities. The May Center for Child Development in Randolph is one of four schools located in Massachusetts and California that are nationally recognized for combining best practices from the fields of applied behavior analysis (ABA) and special education.
For more information, visit www.mayinstitute.org.