Local programs helps those with autism enter the workforce

Less than one-third of adults with autism have a job, but 75 percent of them want to work, according to the National Autism Society.

Employers in Houston can help adults with autism enter the workforce through Social Motion Skills, a nonprofit that helps people with learning differences on social and life skills. Part of their work involves helping clients find and succeed at a job.

Michael Wilson, a 24-year-old man with autism, used this program and is now a proud employee at locally owned Castaway Rods.

Building a custom fishing rod is no easy feat.

"There are over 100 steps to build one rod," explained Castaway Rods president and owner Mac DeLaup.

To complete the intricate process, DeLaup has a team of employees who work carefully to craft each piece.

"Our process is almost 30 years now with Castaway, and it's from the ground up," he explained.

When Social Motion Skills senior director Lauren Whidden approached DeLaup about bringing Wilson on as an employee, DeLaup was open to the idea because he knew the transition would be smooth with the help of Whidden.

"Once we find the position and an employer who is willing to think outside the box, we do a staff training, and then we bring in our client and we do side-by-side job coaching to make sure they are prepared for the job," said Whidden.

Whidden stays with the employer and employee for a minimum of two weeks or as long as necessary.

"Miss Lauren helped me by making the transition process easier," Wilson explained.

"I tag and bag rods. I make tubes for the shipping guy, and I also make boxes for him," he added.

"He has grown in taking that independence. We've taught him that after you finish a task, you know what your next duties are. You don't need to be walked through every step of the way," explained Whidden.

DeLaup realized quickly he made the right move by hiring Wilson.

"I cannot stress to everyone in the community how important these young people are with an autistic background. I'd hire 50 Michaels if I could," said DeLaup.

For Wilson, succeeding at a job gave him pride.

"I feel like I accomplished something," he said.

"I can tell you, it's changed my life. It's changed my life forever," added DeLaup.

If you're an employer and you're interested in working with Social Motion Skills to give a young adult with autism a chance at a job, visit Social Motion Skills' website.

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