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October is Nationwide Incapacity Employment Consciousness Month and a West Aspect nonprofit is doing its half to assist adults with autism discover gainful employment.

Aldo Suarez, 21, of Little Village likes to play the online game Halo. One other favorite? Constructing McLaren autos with Lego Technic units. And he prefers the older “Matrix” motion pictures, Braveness the Cowardly Canine, and strolling North Riverside and Woodfield malls when he can. And his favourite meals of his is tofu.

“My ldl cholesterol may be very excessive, so I’ve to decrease that down. In addition they say my blood strain is simply too excessive due to salt. I wish to decrease all of that down,” he mentioned. “That is why I am going for tofu.”

The opposite factor the Ray Graham Coaching Heart pupil goes for is a job at Michael’s, the humanities and crafts retailer. Suarez is engaged together with his first job at Jewel-Osco, corralling carts. It is a place that City Autism Options (UAS) West Aspect Transition Academy helped him receive. Academy workers assists excessive schoolers with autism and associated challenges with discovering gainful employment and job readiness — from filling out job purposes, writing resumes, and studying interviewing abilities and any extra help as soon as employed to ensure their segue into the brand new entry stage place is an effective one.

“Mike Tracy helped me with regards to interviewing and communications,” Suarez mentioned.

Tracy has been serving to the UAS inhabitants safe entry-level positions since 2019. He and spouse Julie based the City Autism Options program in 2012 after their son John was recognized with autism as a toddler.

The group was meant to deal with social applications, employment and residential issues. The Chicago nonprofit has grown right into a multitiered program with a residential element, a 1.2-acre farm in Chicago’s Medical District (Rising Options Farm), the academy (a program that serves West Aspect public highschool college students with IEPs (ages 16-22) with speech language and occupational therapies, social and emotional conduct studying with social staff and licensed clinicians) and the Life Lab, a West Aspect townhouse the place college students with extra extreme purposeful challenges follow each day life abilities akin to laundry, cooking, and self-care.

“We’re working with 5 excessive faculties and about 90 college students proper now,” Mike Tracy mentioned. “Now we have a pleasant house right here in Little Italy however we wish to broaden to serve extra faculties, extra college students. We might like to rent extra workers finally — there’s an enormous demand on the market. So we would like to assist provide it as greatest we are able to.”

Tracy mentioned jobs are the largest focus in the mean time, which coincides with October being Nationwide Incapacity Employment Consciousness Month. Information reveals unemployment and underemployment are increased for folks with disabilities.

“The employment piece has turn into a much more strong portion of what we have been doing over the past three years,” UAS Government Director Heather Tarczan mentioned. “Not each pupil is likely to be employment prepared. So if a category of 15 college students joins us, possibly there’s two or three college students which can be prepared by January for employment. However maybe the next 12 months after they’re one other 12 months older, there is likely to be 5 – 6 candidates which can be prepared.”

Tracy is the conduit for employers and aspiring workers. He mentioned so long as the market is powerful, he’s going to attempt to hold inserting folks in jobs of their alternative. Tracy helped Alejandro Sanchez of Little Village discover his job at dd’s Reductions. Having reached the six-month mark at that job, the 21-year-old says his love of trend led him there. Previous to dd’s, he is labored on the Chicago Lighthouse over the summer time doing pictures tasks, interned with metropolis authorities, and interned to UAS’ communications director Sharon Parmet. He is saving his cash from him to purchase a home for his grandmother from him.

“I used to be working with Walmart first, however I didn’t like pushing carts,” Sanchez mentioned of his three-month stint. “And it was throughout December.” He mentioned pushing carts within the chilly climate gave him anxiousness.

Alejandro Sanchez wheels several wall mirrors to shelves at his job at dd's Discounts store in Cicero on Oct. 3, 2022

When he isn’t working, Sanchez is enjoying and watching soccer, and taking pictures in Millennium Park. He needs to pursue pictures as a profession, and has set his sights on internship alternatives that can assist him on that path.

The four-day per week academy does all it might to assist younger adults, with 5 full-time workers working on the second flooring of a former church faculty. Younger adults with particular wants age out of secondary faculty after they flip 22 years previous, and subsequently lose the school-based applications and assets they’ve grown accustomed to. UAS gives programming and providers to assist the younger adults transition to maturity. Lecturers accompany their college students on their designated day of the week on the academy on the CTA and thru a partnership with Lyft, City Autism Options support employed college students with free rides to and from work.

“We’re offering what I’d contemplate to be complementary providers to what’s being taught in a standard classroom,” Tarczan mentioned. “We are the group accomplice that is offering the group integration applications, internships, job experiences, and a few extra intense medical experiences than maybe what they’re getting at school.

“We’re not lecturers, we’re not educators, however what we do have are clinicians the place we’re bringing collectively greatest practices and individuals who have abilities in speech and language remedy, conduct remedy, social work, who’re capable of present our college students with intensive social/emotional studying. Expertise like speech and language and abilities in conduct remedy — actually offering these extra units of abilities to finish that image.”

Security and proximity to jobs are paramount when making an attempt to create a win-win for the employer and for the coed, Tarczan added. She mentioned younger adults with UAS are similar to anyone else, they simply need a foot within the door with regards to employment and be capable of present to not solely themselves, however to everyone else that they’ll do what their siblings are doing, what their mother and father are doing, or what their associates are doing.

“They wish to carry dwelling a paycheck and so they wish to contribute to their households,” she mentioned. “They usually need to have the ability to eat out with their associates and purchase cool sneakers.”

Earlier than leaving, Sanchez smiled whereas sharing his favourite quote: “I’ll go wherever the wind takes me”; he then inquired about internship alternatives on the Chicago Tribune.

drockett@chicagotribune.com

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