Man with autism finds employment in struggling economy

With all the news of the national unemployment rate nearing 9%, some may forget that those numbers are significantly higher for individuals with disabilities. The United States Department of Labor reports that, of those people with disabilities who say they are able to work, only 56 percent are working (PDF) — the rest are looking for jobs. With a weak economy, those numbers are only expected to get worse.

KXAN-TV here in Austin brought some sunshine to this cloudy outlook this week with a feature story about David Kennedy.

David is a very friendly young man of twenty-two years. He loves to listen to and play music on the keyboard, he likes talking to his friends and teachers in the community, and he enjoys meeting new people and helping them, especially while at his job. David also has autism.

From the KXAN-TV feature :

“I love going to work,” said David. “My job is awesome.”

He works at a South Austin H-E-B check-out line. It is a job he got with the help of a school program and one he has been able to maintain through a support system with Easter Seals Central Texas.

Easter Seals not only serves as a liaison between David and his employer but also as a search tool to help people like David find work.

Easter Seals Central Texas has been working for the past decade to aid adults with disabilities and other barriers gain employment skills and access opportunities to lead more independent lives. David has been working at the regional grocery store chain H-E-B for more than a year now. He proudly displays his “one-year badge” and is eagerly waiting to get his next badge in 2010. His mother, Barbara, is one of his greatest advocates and credits the support she has received at Easter Seals Central Texas for contributing to her son’s growing independence and sense of pride.

The Easter Seals Living with Autism Study results revealed that 76% of parents of children with autism are concerned about their children’s future employment. Finding employment for individuals with disabilities is always a challenge, but there is much we can each do to help open more doors to employment. Patronize companies known to hire individuals with disabilities. Tell employers how much you value their employees with disabilities. And if you are an employer, discover your nearest Workforce Development Program and learn how you can help support this very important and wonderful resource.

Read Julia McCollum’s biography.


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