About one year ago, Program Director Brian Kluchurosky and participating adults in YAP’s Adults with Autism service set out with the intent making their voices heard. Dispelling the notion that individuals with autism are vastly different from other people gave the group an added sense of purpose a newspaper called “The Pittverse” was created.
The initial group of four brainstormed ideas creating both the logo and developed content that is now regularly compiled into 4 issues per year. The group has also grown, having now eight active contributors of opinion pieces, restaurant reviews and other wide-ranging topics. The response to The Pittverse was well-received by the local community, highlighted by The Greentree Junior Times doing a spotlight feature on the group for their newspaper.
The Pittverse is an interesting read for everyone who picks up a copy. For participating adults the project also develops useful skills for the workplace such as meeting deadlines and effective collaboration. The need to consider different opinions and talking with each other—needs certainly not unique to people with autism—are often tough things for his program participants to develop, Kluchurosky explains. Working on Pittverse has helped with those skills and more.
“The newspaper has inspired some participants to seek a job, to collaborate with others in a job search and to locate opportunities for volunteer work,” Kluchurosky says.
Most of the adults in program are age 25 or older. They are referred by Support Coordinators from local agencies who interview YAP, the participant and the family to ensure a good match. Approval comes from the state Bureau of Autism.
The initial interview with Support Coordinators is a part of YAP’s Adult Family Team Approach. At the first meeting, YAP asks the adult and family: What do you need? How can we help? How can you help? How would you like to contribute to your community?
“A lot of our participants have had services growing up but employment has not always been a priority”, Kluchurosky says. “We’re starting at Square One with them, beginning with their realization that Yes! We can do that!”
Projects like Pittverse and other volunteer opportunities help adults learn skills needed to make the transition to paid employment. When the job search begins, YAP staff may connect with employers to introduce program participants as potential employees. Some participants choose to go it alone.
“Some of our adults don’t want to disclose autism to employers,” Klurchurosky explains. “They want the job interview to be only about what they can bring to the job.” One adult in the program interviewed for a temporary research position with a major university, nailed the interview and got the job with no mention of the Autism Spectrum.
“We want to eliminate the notion that you’re either on or off the Autism Spectrum,” Klurchorosky says. “We’re trying to normalize the perception, helping people understand that intensities differ but there’s no on or off switch to Autism; we are all on it to some degree, that’s why it’s called a spectrum.”