UNT Kristin Farmer Autism Center to host town hall focused on employment in autism community

In the United States, roughly one in 88 children has autism spectrum disorder, a staggering increase over the past decade.

As those children grow up and enter the workforce, employers will require much education about the developmental disorder, which affects social and communication skills.

The University of North Texas, in partnership with Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, will sponsor a town hall Oct. 21 for small business owners, entrepreneurs and adults with autism and their families.

Advocates say people with autism have the ability to excel in the workplace, yet large numbers are chronically unemployed or underemployed.

“Many individuals with autism are successfully employed. Like any of us, it’s about finding the right job match and the right support,” said Linda Holloway, chair of UNT’s Department of Disability and Addiction Rehabilitation. “The purpose of this town hall meeting is to inspire employers, family members and individuals by hearing the stories of people who are thriving in their jobs.”

Autism Speaks, in collaboration with Extraordinary Ventures, is hosting the meetings — titled Advancing the Role and Impact of Small Businesses in Employing Adults with Autism — in nine U.S. cities, including New York, Chicago and Philadelphia, with a grant from the Ireland Family Foundation.

At UNT, participants will discuss the pivotal role small businesses can play in hiring workers with ASD, what employers should expect and local opportunities available to people with autism.

“Individuals with autism can excel in the workforce when they are provided the right opportunities and appropriate accommodations. Unfortunately, there are not enough programs in place to meet their needs,” said Lisa Goring, vice president of Family Services at Autism Speaks. “Our series of town halls will encourage people to think outside of the box in terms of employment options, while also spurring small business owners to consider hiring adults on the spectrum.”

A panel will feature representatives of three small businesses that successfully employ people with autism:

  • nonPareil, a Plano-based business that provides technical training to people who have been diagnosed with autism
  • Extraordinary Ventures, a nonprofit in Chapel Hill, N.C., that operates a range of small businesses for the purpose of employing young adults with autism and development disabilities
  • Poppin’ Joe’s Kettle Korn, which is run by a young man with autism and can be found at fairs, craft shows and events throughout Kansas and Georgia

The town hall will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 21 (Monday) at the UNT Kristin Farmer Autism Center, 490 South Interstate 35-E in Denton. Admission is free, but registration is required. Register at http://untautismspeakstownhall.eventbrite.com/.

-Ellen Rossetti, News Promotions