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The Carson Project – A Current Proposal

on March 10, 2013

A Collaboration between Agri-Science Opportunities and TEACCH at UNC

The Carson Project Mission Statement

“To facilitate transitions for individuals with high-functioning ASD to independent adulthood in a structured and supportive agricultural environment that leads to certification and/or employment opportunities and careers paths.”

The collaboration is between the private and public sector to create a vision that adapts today’s reality and tomorrow’s needs for high-functioning ASD young adults. It acknowledges changes in our economy, our workplace and world. The project treats each individual, educator, professional, parent and caregiver as a consumer so that the outcomes meet the needs of the consumers. It requires total community support, while holding each stakeholder accountable. It represents a direction, a hope, a commitment to place high-functioning ASD adults on a path of support so that they experience “meaningful and stable employment in predictable and rewarding work environments” (“Teacch autism program,” 2013).

The five pillars that will support this collaboration are : Safety, Resources, Services, People, and Quality. Within each pillar are specific goals for each individual, objectives and measures that are designed in collaboration with TEACCH and Agri-Science for each individual. As a result, initiatives and projects result in direct support of the goals and objectives.

These pillars are currently in alignment with the Models of Support already established within the UNC TEACCH Autism Program: “One-to-One Placement, Mobile Crew, Group Shared Support Site, and Standard Placement” (“Teacch autism program,” 2013).

Currently, UNC’s vocational opportunities include Manufacturing, Food Service, Office or Clerical, Landscaping, Grocery or Warehouse, Libraries, and Janitorial Services. Including the Agri-Science component creates another added value. As Temple Grandin has taught us through her 30 years of research and autism advocacy, “animals think in pictures and notice more details in their environment than most humans do” – except for the ASD population. This project would  make her research a reality, provide superior training in modern-day agriculture, ensure young adults have an opportunity to gain necessary employability skills, add to economic growth, and give hope to many families and students who feel trapped by their teen or young adult’s ASD diagnosis. It would naturally incorporate sensory-motor needs on a daily basis. As you know, fear stops these teens from performing in the same way fear stops cows from doing particular tasks. If we know these things to be true, then an agricultural environment naturally takes into account the special needs automatically.

The Carson Project Vision

The Vision of the Carson Project is to train people with high-functioning ASD to work as consultants in food, water, and energy production, innovative marketing strategies, cattle genetic advancements, agri-science education and technology,  and research that improves the human condition worldwide.

Since the economy, energy, technology, and the food condition are changing rapidly, the private industry of Agri-Science Opportunities envisions the possibility of training high-performing workers to utilize information, solve real world problems, and become an integral part of the agri-science industry. The project is modeled after its predecessor in the Denmark, “Specialisterne (the name means “the specialists”) founded by Thorkil Sonne. His company trains people with autism as specially skilled employees who are sent out as hourly consultants to companies to do data entry, assembly work and other jobs that many workers would find tedious and repetitive” (Tachibana, 2009). In this country,  Aspiritech, a non-profit Chicago company, “trains high-functioning autistics as testers for software development companies” (Tachibana, 2009).

While the overall field of agriculture is considered the second most dangerous type of work, it is not limited to the use of machinery or 1000 pound animals. It is diverse, requires specific skills and encompasses specific technology. In Temple Grandin’s book Developing Talents, she writes, “Society loses out if individuals with autism spectrum disorders are not involved in the world of work, or make other kinds of contributions to society” (Grandin, 2004).

Agri-Science Opportunities needs reliable people for web design, highly specialized accounting, plumbing for water sources, electricians for general and specific purposes, farm repairs, unique landscaping, research, graphic design and commercial art, engineering design for farming, and consulting. These types of businesses are highly specialized, need creative problem solving, and use visual thinking skills. UNC TEACCH is the link to helping high-functioning ASD people manage their sensory systems and other challenges that a work environment poses. The following is a link from the Nantucket Project: http://www.nantucketproject.com/tnp-2012-autism-panel. It is a video of distinguished experts, founders, and advocates for ASD people in the workplace. Carly Fleishmann, author and autism advocate, is the special guest. She is completely non-verbal, but is able to communicate extensively through technology. She is accompanied by her support person, Howard Dela. I add this reference to prove the importance of creating opportunities for this population.

IMPLEMENTATION

The initial high priority needs are as follows:

  • Bridge the gap for high-functioning Asperger an AD/HD young adults between high school and college.

  • Create an alternative one-to-one teaching/training/mentoring experience for students to gain specific expertise.

The existing one-to-one model that is in place through UNC-TEACCH would be the standard of the supported internship and/or employment. The program would in effect be a tripod system. A student team would comprise a student specialist from the NC State Agricultural Department who applies for this specific internship program through a collaboration formed between Agri-Science Opportunities, UNC TEACCH and N.C. State Agricultural department. It is a direct fit with Agri-Science Opportunities structures, the model of one-to-one support from UNC- TEACCH which includes a personal job coach, and offers NC State students expanded unique opportunities in agriculture and shaping the future of another human.

A training program would consist of a syllabus and  job-performance outcomes that can lead to other intern programs, employment and/or certification depending on the strengths and interests of the student. While field training will be essential, there is also classroom training for reframing that teaches how to change a negative situation into positive ones, safety while on site, nomenclature, technology, tools,  and systems training. In this first stage of the program, a student and his team could participate two to three days a week in the program. The time frame would vary depending on the nature of the applicant.

This program has the potential to be a model for others across the nation and the globe. It is innovative. It can be sustained, and it will have a direct social impact on the local families and communities. It has the power to change the landscape for people who are high-functioning Asperger and/or AD/HD.

There can also be an admissions criteria to include the following:

  • 18-26 years old who have graduated high school with a regular diploma

  • Documented diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome, High-Functioning Autism, PDD-NOS, ADHD, NLD, Dyslexia or other Learning Differences

  • High level of motivation to meet program goals

  • Emotional, behavioral, and psychologically stability

The process could be as follows:

  • Fully completed application
  • A nonrefundable application processing fee
  • Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) or Wechsler Adult Intelligence   Scale (WAIS) (no more than two years prior to application)
  • Woodcock Johnson Achievement or Wechsler Individual Achievement Test          (WIAT) (no more than two years prior to application)
  • Current Psychological Evaluation/Mental Status Exam
  • Completed Parent Questionnaire
  • 2 Letters of reference
  • Resume if applicable
  • Official High School Transcripts/Previous College Transcripts
  • Student Photo
  • Latest IEP (if applicable)
  • Completion of Highlands Battery for Natural Abilities for best placement options


FUNDING SOURCES

Since this program would be driven by UNC-TEACCH, it is important to create a conversation about current funding for the existing One-to-One Model. Funding sources need to include state and federal grants, private grants from a variety of foundations, agencies, individual donors and parent groups.

There are several listed below with potential benefits:

Driving Scientific Initiative with Innovation in Autism, LLC – allows us to invest in for-profit entities

The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship

The Abilities Fund – www.abilitiesfund.org

Association for Enterprise Opportunity – www.microenterpriseworks.org

Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS) -Social Security Administration

RESOURCES

Grandin, T. (2004). Developing talents: Careers for individuals with asperger syndrome   and high-functioning autism. Shawnee Mission: Autism Asperger Publishing Co.

Scott, T. (Co-Founder) (2012). God-like technology. [Web Video]. Retrieved from http://www.nantucketproject.com/tnp-2012-autism-panel

Tachibana, C. (2009, 12 08). Autism seen as asset, not liability, in some jobs. Retrieved from

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/34047713/ns/health-mental_health/t/autism-seen-asset-not-liability-some-jobs/


Teacch autism program. (2013). Retrieved from
http://teacch.com/clinical-services-1/supported-employment-1

Teacch autism program. (2013). Retrieved fromhttp://teacch.com/clinical-services-1/supported-employment-1/introduction-to-models-of-support.


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