Wildwood Programs Recognized for Providing Effective Training for People With AutismDecember 12, 2011
For Glenn Crast, a 25 year old with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), working at Panera Bread provides a sense of achievement and an opportunity to save money so he can enjoy his love for travel. “I really enjoy working at Panera Bread,” says Glenn. “Everyone is friendly, always treating me with respect.” Glenn found his job at Panera with the help of Wildwood Programs, an organization in Latham, New York, that helps people with ASD find jobs and advance in their careers.
Recently, Wildwood was recognized for its exceptional history of helping people with ASD find employment and integrate into the workplace. This recognition was received from the Vocational Rehabilitation Service Models for Individuals with ASD project, which aims to provide research and resources about effective practices in helping people with ASD find employment and succeed in the workforce.
“The rate of ASD is rising, but only about 15 percent of working-aged adults with ASD are employed,” says John Westbrook, who directs the project. “We want to identify and share effective practices for improving employment rates and success among people with ASD.”
Before finding work at Panera, Glenn had successfully worked part time as a dishwasher at a family-owned restaurant. When the restaurant acquired new management, Glenn’s schedule often changed, and his pay was no longer predictable. While change is difficult for many people, it can be especially problematic for people with ASD. Glenn began experiencing anxiety as a result of the uncertainty in his job.
With help from staff at Wildwood Programs and his family, Glenn looked for a more stable work setting and ultimately found a job at Panera. He now works the same hours Tuesday through Friday and has regained the predictable schedule and paychecks that are important to him.
Wildwood staff have worked with managers at Panera to support Glenn’s transition into the new job. Glenn enjoys a sense of achievement and the positive feedback he receives. As Panera’s general manager Mike Moriarty explains, “Glenn is a great example of a person who, when committed, can achieve almost anything.”
The Vocational Rehabilitation Service Models for Individuals with ASD project focuses on improving vocational rehabilitation and transition services for persons with ASD. The project is a partnership between SEDL, a private, nonprofit education research, development, and dissemination corporation based in Austin, Texas, and the University of Central Florida Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (UCF-CARD).
This national initiative is funded by a 5-year grant. The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research in the U.S. Department of Education will cover 99% ($1.75 million) of the costs, and non-governmental sources will cover the remaining 1% ($17,500) of the costs.
About Wildwood Programs
Wildwood Programs provides comprehensive services for children and adults with autism spectrum disorders, complex learning disabilities and other developmental disabilities.