If you are interested in supporting an underserved population of individuals on the autism spectrum, you are in the right spot. You may already know about our ReachOut initiative here at CentralReach, but if not, you can check out our previous blog post here. We’re excited to join the list of companies that are creating and employing adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Now, we are working to make it easier for other companies to do the same!

Our next goal as we continue the growth of the ReachOut Initiative is to inspire and help you to start your own similar initiative at your company. Companies that provide service to children and teenagers with ASD play a big role in your local autism community. What better way to give back even more than to hire adults on the spectrum to work at your company? Believe us when we say this: employing adults on the spectrum is a win-win for your company and community!

So, how do you get started? Check out some tips below for how we got the ReachOut Initiative started at CentralReach:

Tip #1: Utilize a Job Board or Coach
Reach out to a job board or job coach that works with individuals with developmental disabilities. Here in South Florida, we worked with a local vocational rehabilitation center. If you do a quick web search, you can find one near you. Autism Speaks has some great tools to get started as well: https://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/adult-services/autism-and-employment

Tip # 2: Interview Questions/Activities that Will Help You Hire
Develop your list of interview questions that are straightforward and can help you determine the right fit. See below for some examples.
Sample Interview questions & tips:

  1. What do you know about our company?
  2. What type of environments have you worked in before?
  3. What environment do you see yourself excelling in? (Work better isolated, with other employees around, open environment, etc.)
  4. What do you like to do on your free time?
  5. Do you have reliable transportation to come to work?
  6. Come up with a sample test. For example, if they are going to be doing data entry, set up an excel sheet they can work on.

Tip #3: Slow and Steady for Success
Start your employee(s) with a shorter schedule, to get a sense of how they do and then move up to a full-time schedule. For example, do two or three days a week for half-a-day. Increase their hours once they become more familiar with their new job. This also helps if you decide to hire multiple individuals, as you can have them all start together on shorter schedules.

Tip #4: Utilize Your Staff Clinicians
Connect with your company’s BCBAs to provide support with your program. Have them advise on tips to working with your new employees and help develop a training plan.

Tip #5: Just a New Colleague
Treat your new team members just like one of your own. The biggest struggle will be their adaptation to a new working environment. For a lot, this may be their first job. The more they interact with the team, and are encouraged to do so in productive ways, the more comfortable they will be. The best part is seeing your team learn how to work with someone on the spectrum.

Tip #6: Direct is Best
Let's face it, there are going to be situations with their work or work environment that will be new and different for you. Our best advice is to be direct. Subtle hints will get you nowhere; being direct is going to save both of you time and frustration.

Tip #7: Good Luck Choosing Just One Candidate
We were so blown away with the candidates and their desire to work, it made it very difficult to not hire each individual we interviewed. Be prepared for that but don’t be afraid to hire more than you originally planned. You’ll want to hire them all 🙂

Adding the ReachOut Initiative and executing it have come with loads of delight for the entire team here at CentralReach. With clinicians on staff, a dedicated process for support in place, and an inclusive work environment, CentralReach employees from all walks of life have thrived with the ReachOut Initiative in place. We only wish we did this sooner! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me at Katy.Han@centralreach.com.