People on the autism spectrum often find difficulty with employment after high school so it is a welcome change that students with autism are entering the workforce at a hospital. Jason Bathurst is one such young adult with autism, facing a rugged job market.
But this year, he spent his senior year working at Bon Secours Maryview Medical Center in Virginia, and his employment prospects at the hospital are bright.
He learned to develop a resume and a PowerPoint presentation about himself. He learned elevator etiquette and how to stock supplies, transport people by wheelchair and make deliveries throughout the hospital.
“Good morning, sir,” the cheerful young Portsmouth man said last week as he made his way from room to room on the fourth floor at Maryview. “I’m going to put my name on your board, so you’ll know who I am.”
The student in scrubs is part of a Virginia Commonwealth University study that’s trying to find ways to help young adults with autism make the transition from high school to the working world through Project SEARCH, which trains people with disabilities in hospital jobs.
“I don’t do any medical stuff,” he said, pushing a cart with supplies and written reminders. “I don’t have the training for that. I like it because I get to work with the patients. They need someone to talk to, and they need someone to give them supplies. That’s what I would want if I were in their shoes.”
While autism treatment in the past has focused mostly on children, more attention is being turned to young adults. One study shows more than half of autistic young adults did not go to college or work during the first two years after leaving high school.
An estimated one in 68 children in the country has autism, a 30 percent increase from two years ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The developmental disorder impairs communication and social interaction, and it sometimes causes repetitive patterns of behavior.