Integrated Autism Consulting at CASDA

CASDA  (Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Alliance)
Teresa Hedley is a wonderful advocate for her son and all young adults on the Autism Spectrum. On day one of the conference I had the pleasure of facilitating a series of workshops with her on Why Family Support is Important: Pathways for Families/ Parents as They Support the Road to Employment. Here is a copy of our presentation and some thoughts from our workshop participants. Please feel free to share some of your thoughts with us….
1. What is your experience and knowledge about this area and specifically, what has worked or not worked?- perception/ reality for ASD youth: hard to translate their skills into action; to move from “marginal to marketable”
– may be highly skilled but do not present well in interview; difficulties marketing themselves
– too much anxiety to move forward
– hard to transition from receiver of information (passive) to active participant role
– hard to move from the comfort and structure of academia to independent decision-making
– path to employment occurs at the same time as other challenging paths forward into adulthood : 
1. merges with life skills and having to live independently,
2. relationships 
– Not worked for us – moving ahead too quickly without due attention to the above
– Worked for us – slowing the transition into manageable steps and always asking, “Does this feel right, right now?”
2. What would you identify as priorities in advancing this area?- Readiness in the student – identify skills; co-op work and supported volunteer experiences 
– Readiness in the employability community – creating supported co-op type positions and fostering a welcoming spirit (vs. a sense of charity or tolerating the individual with autism).
– practical and meaningful transitions at the high school level that include the student as well as the parents… walking through each step together, assessing readiness skills, strengths, deficits, aptitudes, attitudes and such.
– transition to employment programs at the college level paired with supported work experience so that what is learned in the classroom is paired with relevant experience. 
3. What immediate steps could be taken to advance this area?- preparing an “alternate pathway” ROADMAP for families – re. considerations for cultivating readiness, volunteer or work experience sessions and learning employability skills
– TRANSITION TO LIFE PROGRAMS like Pat’s available to all youths to address pre-employment topics (such as workplace communication, workplace expectations, workplace safety, workplace relationships, workplace experience)
– at college level, too, to prepare for direct entry to employment, or to further college
– pair the above with supported volunteer and supported employment placements
4. Which partners and resources are necessary?- schools – begin cultivating readiness as early as grade nine – throughout high school building to job experience (co-op) options in grades 12/13
– school boards – perhaps this option – co-op – should be part of the curriculum and the curriculum needs to be re-written vs. parents seeking out this option.
– help students move from paper to practice 
– school boards working in tandem with colleges and employment agencies
– colleges
– employment agencies
– ministry of youth and social services
5. Are there other sectors that need to be included in this discussion?- ministry of children and youth
– ministry of social services
– ministries of education – public and post-secondary working in tandem to mandate access to students with disabilities – such as is the case in BC
– employment agencies to help students with pre-employment skills
– businesses cultivated to provide opportunities for students with ASD.




The Hedley Family on Parliament Hill.





Day two presented a new and exciting addition to the CASDA summit agenda. We heard from the powerful voices of the Self- Advocates – speaking on behalf of all persons with an ASD. Thank you for your valuable contributions!


Marg Spoesltra, Executive Director of  Autism Ontario, Senator Jim Munson, Pat O’Connor of Integrated Autism Consulting and Alan Kriss of Specialisterne at Autism on the Hill.





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