May 18, 2016
Autism Speaks, the preeminent autism organization in the nation, invited Erik’s Ranch & Retreats to participate in its Midwest Employment Symposium that it hosted Saturday, March 12, at Northwestern University’s Norris University Center. The event welcomed over 150 small businesses, providers and self-advocates to discuss employment innovation, and the potential impact it can have on the autism community and the larger community as a whole. Individuals with autism, families, advocates, business leaders, entrepreneurs, and adult service providers came together to share innovative approaches to addressing employment issues for adults with autism. The event was successful and we are thankful to Autism Speaks for the opportunity to share our innovative business model and to Kathryn for representing us so beautifully. Kathryn focused on the importance of our mission and why it’s groundbreaking:
Many adults with ASD are isolated—they have no job, few friends and no meaningful role in society. Because they struggle to initiate and maintain social relationships, they struggle to get and keep jobs. They may lack appropriate verbal communication skills, or may possess splinter skills, which means they are experts in a particular area, but may have difficulty managing day-to-day activities on their own.
A recent study shows that nearly 40 percent of 19- to 23-year-olds with ASD received little assistance after special education in high school. Study author Paul Shattuck, Ph.D., a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, says, “It’s like these young people are pushed off a cliff when they leave school.” Nearly seven years after high school graduation, one in three young adults with autism have no paid job experience, college or technical schooling. With roughly half a million autistic children reaching adulthood in the next decade, experts say it’s an issue policymakers urgently need to address.
And we are. The single most important employment opportunity we offer our members is through our innovative tour guide program, Erik’s Minnesota Adventures (EMA). EMA is poised to offer young adults with autism meaningful employment, social interaction, financial independence and a step toward self-sufficiency. We tap into members’ strengths and existing splinter skills and build tours around their passions, expertise and strengths. Thus, the focus becomes on all that they can do versus what they cannot. Rather than performing mundane or repetitive tasks in work centers, members have jobs tailored to their unique and varied interests. As tour guides, they lead guests on tours, providing an opportunity for them to showcase their myriad talents and skills within the arts, history, sports, environment – whatever their passion. Each tour in the Twin Cities metro invites six to 30 guests to participate in fun and educational adventures, such as taking in the sights of the city on a Segway® tour; accompanying a skilled equestrian for a behind-the-scenes tour of Canterbury Park and splashing around on a hot summer’s day on Lake Calhoun on a water sports tour to name a few. Guests who participate in these tours have a critical role: by virtue of being guests on a tour, they provide tour guides with rewarding and deeply satisfying jobs, and consequently, help cultivate and build stability for tour guides by affording socialization opportunities, self-esteem, a sense of self-worth and hope – feelings many have previously never experienced in their entire life.
With summer just around the corner, now is the perfect time to book your tour! Our members are gearing up for an exciting summer and cannot wait to share their passions with you! Try something new while providing limitless possibilities for this deserving population. Help change a life and book your tour today: http://www.eriksranch.org/tour-with-us/