As a special teacher at a Louisiana high school, Natalie Simmons prepared children with autism spectrum disorder to move forward with life after graduation. But she soon discovered that there was a blatant flaw in the approach they followed. Children were totally lacking in digital knowledge.
When the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that more than half of all jobs required some kind of technological skills, they emerged as a problem for people with autism spectrum disorder. Natalie was afraid that her students would be directed either to low-grade or narrow positions, or worse, not getting a job at all.
Natalie identified an opportunity in teaching through autism applications such as "math on the farm" and "making sentences". I began to use learning and project-based technology to transfer key technical skills and also strengthen the capacities for analytical thinking, problem solving and independent life.
Natalie resigned from her position to develop a curriculum for children with special needs. Applications of "farm mathematics" and "camel creation" were included in the program. Initially the focus was only on autistic children, but soon expanded to include children with special needs and those with cognitive disabilities. WFP has received recognition from both experts and educators. It is widely used in Louisiana County School and in some other neighboring countries.
Natalie's program is just one of the ways organizations and individuals work to lend autistic children a better chance of success later in life in the workplace with high-skilled jobs. Efforts range from promoting technological education to companies to expand their horizons on how to employ neglected talent. These efforts help to dispel the mistaken belief that autistic children with intellectual disabilities can not be assimilated in technology.
Initiatives like Natalie are addressing a real problem. According to the US Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for persons with disabilities is close to double the rate of persons with disabilities. For people with developmental and cognitive disabilities, such as Down's syndrome, chances of job decline are much worse.
Most people want to get a job in a meaningful job. People with intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorder do not differ. Despite the millions of dollars spent on technical and educational programs to reach better results for people with autism spectrum disorder, the needle did not move much.
But people like Natalie are taking steps to ensure a better future for people with special needs and those suffering from autism spectrum disorder.