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Cornell Opens Content Repository to Autism Employment Resources

Young people with autism may have a good eye for detail, an excellent memory for facts and figures and the ability to work well in a structured and organized work environment. They may see the world in a unique way and be highly creative and imaginative. However, they may also have trouble relating or interacting with others, with sharing, taking turns or picking up on verbal or non-verbal cues. They may come across as having "flat" personalities.

And they have a high unemployment rate. According to a 2015 report, just 58 percent of 20-somethings with autism were employed, compared to 74 percent of young people with intellectual disabilities, 95 percent with learning disabilities and 91 percent with a speech impairment or emotional disturbance.

To provide help to companies and other organizations that would consider hiring people on the autism spectrum for skilled employment, Cornell University is working with Hewlett Packard Enterprise in helping to distribute resources developed for HPE's "Dandelion Program."

Named after an herb commonly mistaken for a weed when it grows in unwanted places, the program was begun in 2014 in Australia by HPE and Specialisterne. The latter is an employment agency that worked with HPE in setting up an on-boarding process to help the company employ people with autism for IT work.

The materials created for those efforts have made their way to Cornell, which will host them in an open source online repository in its Industrial Labor Relations School.

The effort is being supported by Cornell's Yang-Tan Institute on Employment and Disability, which does research on creating equal opportunities for people with disabilities.

Currently, the collection includes training presentations to help managers understand how to work with people with autism, program charters and plans, guidance on integrating autism in the workplace and dozens of other related documents.

"We believe that these materials can be extremely helpful to companies who are currently implementing or considering starting programs targeting employment of individuals on the autism spectrum," said Institute Director, Susanne Bruyère, in a press release. "The experience and successes of the Dandelion Program can contribute to assisting potential employers to better understand effective programs for on-boarding autistic people into competitive, often highly technical jobs, and setting them up with the appropriate skill sets to thrive, as well as in building a more disability-inclusive workplace overall."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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