Saturday, February 11, 2012

Dan Marino's Forward Pass for Adults with Developmental Disabilities

The Dan Marino Foundation this week unveiled plans to create a vocational educational program for adults ages 18 to 28 with autism spectrum disorders, Asperger's syndrome, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other disabilities. The Palm Beach Post has a good explanation of the program, called the Dan Marino Foundation Vocational Campus, to be located in downtown Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and serve 60 students starting in the fall of 2013.

This is a program worth watching. The foundation, started by former NFL quarterback Dan Marino 20 years ago after learning his 2-year-old son had autism, has a record of building programs and raising money to help people with developmental disabilities. This new program aims to teach students skills, in fields such as culinary arts and auto mechanics, so they can get jobs and live more independent lives.

As many families dealing with autism and other disabilities can understand, such a program also addresses a fundamental question: what will our kids do after they finish school, after they turn 22? In Florida, only one in five people with developmental disabilities have a job, the Marino Foundation points out.

The Marino project is not alone, as other nonprofit organizations, educational institutions and social service agencies work to build or expand programs to include people with disabilities in the work force and society in general. The Easter Seals, based in Chicago, has long worked to train and place people, and now counts people with autism as a key constituency. A program called Think College, based at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, offers educational programs and training classes. This article in The Chicago Sun-Times reports on a career development program run by the Turning Point Autism Foundation of Naperville, Ill. The Jewish Vocational Service of Metrowest, in New Jersey, recently opened a career center for people with autism. There is also a Danish software company made famous by Harvard Business Review as its technical director, the father of a child with autism, applied some insights he learned as a parent to hire people with autism to do quality control work.

You may know of other programs, and I invite you to post a comment on this blog with more information.

It can be daunting to think of our kids' future when they grow up and wonder what it holds for them. Programs like these are not the answer for everyone, but the Marino Foundation's information flier on its new vocational center is worth reading. It says, in part:

There are over 341,000 students in Florida who have a disability

77 percent will graduate or age out [of school] without a standard diploma

79 percent will not qualify for further educational opportunities

70 percent do not believe they will ever have the means to live independently

Only 8 percent of companies in the U.S. report hiring people with disabilities

90 percent of individuals with autism are unemployed

But the most meaningful statistic of all is that there is a 100 percent chance the Dan Marino Foundation Vocational Campus will make a difference


4 comments:

Scott Standifer said...

There are many exciting autism employment projects starting up around the country, including TIAA-CREF's Fruits of Employment project, Connecticut's Roses for Autism, AMC Theatres' FOCUS program (now implemented in all AMC Theatres across the country), and Walgreens' innovative autism employment program now active in all its distribution centers and soon to be extended to all of its retail stores.

We are about to hold our annual conference on autism employment - Autism Works National Conference, March 6 & 7, 2012, in St. Louis, Mo. Articles about each the programs above are available on the Autism Works National Conference Facebook page. All of these groups and others will be present at the conference. Deb Russell of Walgreens, and Dr. Stephen Shore are keynote speakers. There are sessions scheduled on the Specialisterne programs, college outreach programs, workplace social skills, emerging new vocational rehabilitation models, and self-employment options.

Scott Standifer, Disability Policy & Studies office, University of Missouri.

The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation said...

cbThe Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation was the first national Autism organization to focus exclusively on adults and had been doing so for over a decade http://www.djfiddlefoundation.org
We have developed, advocated for and funded residential,vocational,employment,educational,health and wellness, recreational and social programs for adults on the spectrum throughout the United States. We are glad to know that the Marino organization is planning a program and hope they will use the many other such programs that exist as models for information and support as they develop their program. We are always happy to know that more and more organizations are realizing as their own children are aging to adulthood the vision that The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation has embraced since its inception in 2002 that Autism is a lifespan a challenge.

Ashley@Healthism said...

Wow, the statistics on the lack of Autism resources seems to speak for itself. Thank you for providing resources and information on the subject and raising awareness for Autism.

Charlotte said...

This is great!

ShareThis