Grandparents are great advocates. We typically have resided in our community for many years and have built relationships with the businesses we patronize. We may own companies or have held administrative positions in corporations. The number of teens with autism is growing and there is an urgent need to identify new job training and employment opportunities for them. Here are some suggestions of how you can help to advocate:
* Identify banks, restaurants, grocery stores, retail shops, department stores, hospitals, and the personal services you access and determine who is the best person to contact there. Repair services and, especially, businesses that require computer skills and data entry, are also good places to contact.
* Ask the managers in stores where you shop if the company trains or employs people with developmental disabilities. If they do, suggest that they provide more job training opportunities for high school students, ages 16 to 22 years, in Transition to Work programs.
* Enlist the help of family members and friends to contact the corporate headquarters of companies, online or by mail and ask if they have any referrals for you.
* See the sample letter to get some ideas about what to write, whether or not the company has training programs or already employs people with developmental disabilities. If they have both training programs and employees, encourage them to increase the opportunities.
* Be sure to contact the company within a week or two after you send the letter to ensure that they received your request. If they are interested in learning more, contact the nearest high school’s Special Education Director/Job Placement Counselor to request that they follow-up and provide additional information for the company.
Suggestions for Advocacy Letter
In collaboration with GAN and the Family Autism Network program, Cal State University – Fullerton, Chapman University and the University of California – Irvine will co-sponsor three SOCIALS for Adults with Autism (16 years and up) & Their Caregivers. CSUF will host a fall SOCIAL, UCI will host one in winter and Chapman will host a SOCIAL in spring, to be held cost-free at venues on each campus during the 2014-2015 academic year. Students from all three universities will volunteer at each event, giving them opportunities to personally engage with the people they are training to serve. They will also gain more insight into how autism affects all three generations in families. GAN members will assist in greeting and registering guests and hosting the caregivers at all events. Volunteer autism service providers from the Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders and other community resources will help to support the students and guests. Faculty members will either require student participation or provide extra credit for the students who volunteer. The Family Autism Network will give community service hours to them.
All three universities are enthusiastic about this new autism collaboration. It serves as a model for other communities of how universities everywhere can partner with community nonprofit organizations to increase resources for the underserved autism community. It will bring positive recognition to the schools, their faculty members and students. In addition, it will encourage shared autism research studies and new grant funding possibilities. Most of all, it will increase community awareness, support, and opportunities for community integration for families affected by autism. The dates and details about these upcoming SOCIALS will be announced soon.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to help at the SOCIALS.