Program helps people with autism find jobs

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – April is Autism Awareness Month and a new program at Michigan State University is helping those with the disorder find jobs.

6 News spoke with advocates from the community today, who say that process isn’t always easy.

“I wanted to be promoted and I was a cart pusher, but I wanted to do customer service,” said Xavier DeGroat, the founder of the Xavier DeGroat Autism Foundation.

DeGroat knows first hand what it’s like to get push back from managers because of having autism.

“They thought I had no communication skills due to my autism background,” said DeGroat.

He says the experience made him upset.

“It made me feel discouraged, disappointed for me going after my own potential,” said DeGroat.

Studies show that 90 percent of people with disabilities lose their jobs because of having a lack of what’s called soft skills.

“Focused on different areas of soft skills including communication, teamwork, positive attitude and enthusiasm,” said Connie Sung, an associate professor at Michigan State University.
 
That’s why a new program at Michigan State University is working to combat this. It’s called ASSET.

Sung developed the course.

“Having all these positive outcomes will help them be more employable,” said Sung.
 
Alyse Johnson works for Peckham, an organization that helps people with disabilities find jobs. 

She says it’s important to know that autism is a spectrum.

“You’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism. It doesn’t look the same for everybody,” said Johnson.

DeGroat says managers should take a chance on people like him.

“A child and young adult with autism can have great learning skills as long as they are given opportunity to have a job,” said DeGroat.

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