Nearly a quarter century ago, the Autism Society launched a nationwide effort to promote autism awareness and assure that each person with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is provided the opportunity to achieve the highest possible quality of life. We, at Employment Enterprises, Inc. (EE, Inc.) are committed to promoting and encouraging autism awareness and in particular, working towards ensuring acceptance and inclusion in schools, communities and higher learning institutions where ASDs are truly valued for their unique talents and gifts.
I have personal experience with ASD. My cherished 7 year old grandson, Ashton, is autistic. I look to his future and know I will work hard to help him find the opportunities and education he will need to find his place in this world. I take the liberty of sharing a quote from United States Senator, Chuck Grassley, who states it so succinctly, “What makes a child gifted and talented may not always be good grades in school, but a different way of looking at the world and learning.”
Autism statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identify around 1 in 68 American children as on the autism spectrum–a ten-fold increase in prevalence in 40 years. ASD affects over 3 million individuals in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide. Moreover, government autism statistics suggest that prevalence rates have increased 10 to 17 percent annually in recent years. Research shows that boys are at higher risk to be on the autism spectrum. No one knows the reason for this right now.
While these statistics are grim, there are success stories that we celebrate together. We celebrate this month with our own VP of Workforce Solutions, Colleen Clokus, whose son Matt was recently accepted into George Mason University. Matt was diagnosed with Autism at age 4 and early intervention with his doctors, therapy and schools provided him with the support needed to function within society and within the schools. Matt is main-streamed in school with a special education teacher in “team taught” classes. Matt is high functioning academically but has social and emotional needs. He maintains good grades and did well on his SAT’s but had less extracurricular activities and honors classes than colleges look for in applicants.
His dream was to attend George Mason University in Fairfax, VA because he could live at home while attending college. Knowing that George Mason University had established a Disability Services Program and the very recent Mason Autism Support Initiative, or MASI program, Matt wrote an essay on how he felt these programs could help him overcome some of his social and emotional issues. Because Matt needs structure and is resistant to change, he would need this support in order to manage this transition. Matt plans to transition his love of video games into a career where he would create and develop games.
These outstanding GMU programs are state of the art for Universities; the Mason Autism Support Initiative which assists special needs students obtain four-year degrees by guiding them through the transition into university life and assisting them in building necessary skill sets; and the LIFE program, for students who want a college experience but are not able to complete a degree program with a goal to train for success in the educational environment on special job skill sets.
A month ago we heard that Matt has been accepted into George Mason University and is waiting to hear about acceptance into the MASI program. We applaud his hard work to reach this milestone and as a company pledge to keep working towards a society where we respect, accept and embrace the differences between us.
“It takes a village to raise a child. It takes a child with autism to raise the consciousness of the village,” Coach Elaine Hall
»Back to Corporate Social Responsibility