By: Alison Bush, M.S., BCBA

Meet Shannon.  She’s one of two women who graduated in 2019 from our Project SEARCH Autism Enhancement internship and employment program or PSAE.  Shannon was driven to land a meaningful job after the hard work that she’d put into the training program, and she did.  She’s thrilled to be working at The Mines Press, a company that prints promotional products for businesses.

“I was surprised!” Shannon said, smiling widely about getting the job.  “I didn’t expect to get it so fast. It was offered to me right on the spot.”

Shannon credits her positive experience at PSAE, where she learned critical work and life skills.  “Having the storeroom experience helped me to feel comfortable because it was similar. Doing the labels in pharmacy helped me to do labels here.” Most importantly, she’s gained confidence in her own ability to acquire and execute different tasks.

Carly, the other female graduate in the class of 2019, also happily landed a job that she very much wanted — at Texas Roadhouse, a chain restaurant.  Before the interview, Carly reviewed the skills that she’d learned with her coaches at PSAE. They role-played interview scenarios and went over possible answers to anticipated questions.   For applicants with autism, who might struggle with social interactions, a typical interview format could be quite challenging, and practicing specific strategies can make a significant impact. In Carly’s case, it resulted in a job that most fit her strengths and personal interests, one that she was beyond proud to get.

“I can’t wait to tell my family,” she gushed when she got the job. “My brothers are going to be jealous of me because Texas Roadhouse is their favorite restaurant!”

During orientation Carly was so excited to receive her uniform shirt that she had to wear it right away.  She officially started her training a few weeks after, and will begin work in late August, just a few months after graduation.  As for Shannon, with her own work goals checked off, travel is the next dream. She hopes to save money to see the colosseum in Rome someday.  With her newfound confidence, we don’t see why not!

Project SEARCH Autism Enhancement was created in partnership with Project SEARCH and the TEACCH Autism Program at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. It is available for adoption by interested organizations.  This program is run by The ARC Westchester.