Autism Alliance of Michigan encourages Michiganders to "Expect the Unexpected" during April's Autism Awareness Month
Adults with autism have one of the highest unemployment rates when compared to their peers with other disabilities. Adults on the spectrum, like all adults, want meaningful work, yet only 16 percent are employed full-time. Of these, many are working beneath their skills set. Throughout the month of April - proclaimed as Autism Awareness month - the Autism Alliance of Michigan (AAoM) is working to increase economic opportunities for adults with autism by promoting the value this population can bring employers and the greater community.
"There are so many myths and preconceived notions surrounding autism, but when given the right opportunities and support these individuals consistently blow away expectations," said Colleen Allen, President and CEO of the Autism Alliance for Michigan. "April, being Autism Awareness Month, is our time of year to reflect on not only reform efforts and progress we've made across the state, but also to draw attention to the many challenges that still face individuals with autism and their families. We may be placing engineers in jobs, and at the same time, assisting a family in crisis find the best psychiatric care."
In just a little more than five years, the AAoM has made great progress helping Michigan families.
- Over 2,000 families across the state have benefited from AAoM's MiNavigator program, which offers free access to autism specialists to guide families through lifespan challenges. The program's online directory has expanded to more than 800 Michigan-specific resources and services.
- Seclusion and Restraint bills were passed in 2016 to improve management and prevention of behavior problems within schools. Additionally, Lt. Governor Brian Calley signed legislation creating professional licensure for autism behavior analysts in Michigan. These critical legislative items will bring more protections to children with autism, in school and clinical settings.
- More children with autism are entering mainstream classrooms, thanks to autism insurance laws passed in 2012. The progress being made by so many children, who are now accessing evidence based therapies, means better lifetime outcomes and opportunity to live a more independent life.
- Employers are showing a greater interest in hiring individuals with autism. AAoM is now consulting with nearly 45 companies to increase interest and implementation of autism hiring initiatives. Employees with autism are more loyal, reliable, have lower absenteeism and turnover than typical workers. The attention to detail, rule-driven and out of the box perspective, and analytical skills make this population ideal candidates for many positions across a company. Those who have struggled to find a job are seeing greater interest and acceptance of their challenges, and looking to enter, or re-enter, the workforce. AAoM is working with more than 260 job seekers on finding a "match."
"Individuals with autism have so many of the skills today's businesses are looking for, but are often not given the same opportunities," said Dave Meador, Vice Chairman and Chief Administrative Officer, DTE Energy. "Providing the right employment opportunities allows these talented individuals to have significant impact on both an organization and its employees, creating a more open and accepting society. Hiring a neuro-diverse workforce isn't just good for the autism community; it's good for business."
DTE Energy is a long-time advocate for families and individuals impacted by autism, as is Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, who has worked tirelessly to increase access to autism services and promote inclusion in schools and communities for people with developmental differences.
"We have made so much progress toward improving access to autism services in Michigan, yet there is still so much work to be done to help this population achieve their potential and live self-determined, independent lives," Calley said. "We need to think beyond awareness, and focus on acceptance. Autism is not something to be 'fixed' or solved.' We need to accept our neighbors, coworkers, friends and family members with autism, and give them the support they need to live up to their potential."
Both Calley and Meador have daughters on the autism spectrum and are long time champions for high expectations and full inclusion. Their work spans early childhood diagnosis and access to therapies, to revamping special education in Michigan, safety initiatives, employment, and housing.
Over nearly more than seven years, AAoM's work has impacted and helped thousands of Michigan families in need of resources and support. To date, AAoM has consulted with over 65 self-funded companies to secure autism benefits for their employees. Additionally, AAoM has provide autism trainings to more than 16,000 first responders across Michigan, making our communities a safer, more inclusive place to live.
About Autism Alliance of Michigan
The Autism Alliance of Michigan (www.aaomi.org) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to lead unprecedented collaboration to improve the quality of life for individuals with autism and their loved ones through education, access to comprehensive services, coordinated advocacy, dedication to community, and navigation.
About DTE Energy
DTE Energy (NYSE:DTE) is a Detroit-based diversified energy company involved in the development and management of energy-related businesses and services nationwide. Its operating units include an electric utility serving 2.2 million customers in Southeastern Michigan and a natural gas utility serving 1.3 million customers in Michigan. The DTE Energy portfolio includes non-utility energy businesses focused on power and industrial projects, natural gas pipelines, gathering and storage, and energy marketing and trading. As one of Michigan's leading corporate citizens, DTE Energy is a force for growth and prosperity in the 450 Michigan communities it serves in a variety of ways, including philanthropy, volunteerism and economic progress. Information about DTE Energy is available at dteenergy.com, twitter.com/dte_energy and facebook.com/dteenergy.
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Autism Alliance of Michigan