The New Beginnings Program is designed to help young adults with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) to find their place in society and become its full-fledged members capable of sustaining themselves. The proposed interventions and initiatives will facilitate the development of essential skills needed to adapt to an independent life, communicate with others, and fulfill professional duties. This paper presents the mission statement and discusses three goals of the program related to independence, skills development, and employment, as well as more specific objectives.
The program’s intent is to implement the values of diversity and responsibility, reduce socioeconomic inequality by providing life skills training and career opportunities, and help the ASD population as a staffing agency. Speaking about the philosophy behind the program, the project is informed by the assumption that autistic people are valuable and capable of making contributions to modern society. However, because of the specific difficulties that they encounter when coping with everyday tasks, such individuals may need professional help to succeed.
As for the program focus, it concentrates on the provision of vocational training services to individuals with ASD who have graduated from high school. This priority population has been selected due to its vulnerability to post-graduation challenges and limited availability of services. The need for training and medical programs for young adults with this diagnosis is widely recognized today. Early adulthood is the period of high risks for individuals with ASD and their caregivers due to limited access to tools facilitating transition planning (Turcotte, Mathew, Shea, Brusilovskiy, & Nonnemacher, 2016). Moreover, the existence of the service cliff or a rapid decline in the use of disability services after turning twenty-one is a significant problem (Turcotte et al., 2016). Therefore, the program focuses on the training and job search needs of former school students with ASD that are still unmet.
Goals and Objectives
The New Beginnings Program is intended to reach three goals that are directly related to autistic adults’ success in personal and professional life. The first goal to be achieved is to unite the efforts of administrators, teachers, and advisors in order to increase the degree of autistic young adults’ independence from other people. The presented field of work is quite broad, and three objectives will be used to measure success and take corrective actions in case of failure.
The first objective linked to this goal is to increase the ASD individuals’ confidence in themselves. According to modern research, both adolescents and young adults diagnosed with this condition are less likely to be confident and have a healthy self-esteem compared to their typically developing peers (McCauley et al., 2019). In its turn, the tendency to underestimate one’s own strengths is strictly interconnected with depression and severely impacts these groups’ success (McCauley et al., 2019). With that in mind, reaching the objective can be critical to the population’s quality of life.
The next objective is to help graduates with ASD to develop critical thinking skills to be able to make independent choices and think rationally. Evaluations can be conducted with the help of tests or observations, and such skills will significantly improve former students’ ability to solve personal problems. Finally, the main objective is to increase the proportion of young adults with ASD living in Miami who do not depend on their parents or caregivers financially. The success in achieving it can be measured with the help of surveys or other methods of quantitative data collection.
Job and Life Skills
The program emphasizes the acquisition of new knowledge helping young adults to shape their life. Within this framework, the second major goal to be attained is to provide program participants with the opportunity to develop new professional and life skills. To make conclusions on the effectiveness of the planned interventions in reaching this goal, three objectives will be used. As for the first one, the program is expected to increase participants’ employability or a set of skills that makes people more attractive to employers. To achieve it, it is possible to use participants’ characteristics related to ASD as a resource. According to the interview of employers, this approach to disabilities increases people’s employment potential (Strindlund, Abrandt-Dahlgren, & Ståhl, 2018). Progress can be measured using reviews from potential employers and skill assessment tests.
As for the next objective, it involves improving participants’ communication skills or enabling them to collaborate with other people to solve everyday problems or perform their job responsibilities. According to Koegel, Ashbaugh, Navab, and Koegel (2016), problems with recognizing and expressing emotions that are common in adults with ASD can severely impact the success of their communication efforts. Life skills training sessions will be aimed at reducing these risks, and it will be possible to measure their outcomes by using feedback from mentors or participants’ colleagues and employees.
The third objective is to increase participants’ knowledge related to jobs that they choose. In this aspect, the program’s effectiveness can be studied using knowledge tests designed for specific professional fields. At the same time, the analysis of performance evaluation reports received from participants’ employers can be helpful to measure progress.
The third goal of the program is to help young adults with ASD to implement new knowledge into practice and gain steady employment. Taking into consideration this group’s vulnerability to post-graduation challenges, they may need to collaborate with trained professionals to apply their new skills properly. The first measurable objective related to the goal is to reduce the number of unemployed people with ASD in Miami. With the help of regular reports provided by mentors, it will be possible to collect statistical data and monitor changes in employment rates among the working-age population having ASD.
The second objective to be kept in mind is to meet participants’ needs related to occupational guidance. In other words, to achieve the third goal, it will be pivotal to help participants to sort out priorities and choose the path of development congruent to their aspirations and talents. In relation to this objective, the required data collection tools may include surveys to measure participants’ satisfaction with vocational counseling services. Specifically, close attention will be paid to mentors’ readiness to choose employment or volunteering options based on participants’ interests.
As for the third objective, it is strictly interconnected with both the goal and the philosophical principles informing the project. Since people with ASD have the potential to be unlocked, all participants should be provided with opportunities to do it. Thus, the final objective is to make sure that every participant receives at least two job offers to choose from, as well as timely help from mentors. To measure the program’s effectiveness in this regard, statistical data on participants’ training outcomes and job opportunities will be collected and analyzed.
To sum up, the mission of the New Beginnings Program is to increase the chances of high school graduates who have ASD to develop skills and acquire the knowledge needed to achieve success. The project seeks to fulfil three goals with measurable objectives, such as to make participants more independent and provide them with skills critical to advancement. Also, it is to help young adults with ASD to find employment/volunteering options based on their interests and abilities.
Koegel, L. K., Ashbaugh, K., Navab, A., & Koegel, R. L. (2016). Improving empathic communication skills in adults with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 46(3), 921-933.
McCauley, J. B., Harris, M. A., Zajic, M. C., Swain-Lerro, L. E., Oswald, T., McIntyre, N…. Solomon, M. (2019). Self-esteem, internalizing symptoms, and theory of mind in youth with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 48(3), 400-411.
Strindlund, L., Abrandt-Dahlgren, M., & Ståhl, C. (2018). Employers’ views on disability, employability, and labor market inclusion: A phenomenographic study. Disability and Rehabilitation, 1-8. Web.
Turcotte, P., Mathew, M., Shea, L. L., Brusilovskiy, E., & Nonnemacher, S. L. (2016). Service needs across the lifespan for individuals with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 46(7), 2480-2489.