New Program Prepares Individuals with ASD for Careers in the Digital Arts

With autism diagnoses rising significantly in recent years, increasing numbers of programs have been introduced to help young adults on the spectrum find successful careers that they enjoy. Many individuals on the spectrum have shown a great interest in computers, IT, or the digital arts, but have been unable to work with these interests and find an employed position in these fields. The Exceptional Minds digital art vocational school is looking to change these statistics and improve the employment possibilities for these young adults.

Exceptional Minds is a digital arts academy with a three-year vocational program that prepares individuals with autism to have meaningful careers in technology, such as multimedia, post-production, visual effects, and digital animation. Yudi Bennett, Director of Operations at Exceptional Minds, stresses that her students have incredible technical creativity, but many have been unable to reach their full potential in becoming employed. Therefore, the school enables the students to gain the skills to work in highly collaborative and creative fields. At Exceptional Minds, students have worked with major software applications and have done subsequent visual effects work on movies such as Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, American Hustle, and Lawless.

Recently, Exceptional Minds has expanded its workplace readiness program. Board certified behavior analysts are providing key developmental training as well as one-on-one consultation for students enrolled in the school. Typically, very limited work readiness practices are available for autistic individuals beyond preparing them for repetitive tasks. Dr. Laurie Stephens, Director of Clinical Services for Education Spectrum, states, “While many of the expected behaviors on the job are learned intuitively by most people, those with ASD can also learn the skills, but need explicit training and practice in order to do so.”

Currently, a huge gap exists in terms of the autistic population and post-high school vocational training. As a result, Exceptional Minds incorporates soft skills training into all areas of learning. This includes having students participate in project development that is similar to a real work environment, giving them better preparation tp possibly work in these areas. With soft skills training and great creative and technical skill, graduates of Exceptional Minds three-year digital arts program are expected to be strong candidates for fulfilling jobs in the highly competitive fields of visual effects and post production.

At ICare4Autism, one of the primary focuses is the Global Autism Workforce Initiative, which emphasizes the importance of creating Autism-friendly workplaces, as well as helping ease the transition from high school to an employed setting. The next ICare4Autism Conference, which will take place in Washington, D.C., will focus on the challenges individuals on the spectrum have faced in gaining employment, and how companies can give individuals on the spectrum better opportunities by implementing programs that will highlight and utilize their strengths.

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