CALGARY -- Unemployment is high in the adult autistic community and the Society for Treatment of Autism is working to change that through its Adolescent and Adult Services Program, according to Arwen Caines, the clinical director.

"Those with autism are employed at 14 per cent where as general population is 92 per cent," said Caines. "There's a huge discrepancy between autistic individuals and their ability to find employment in the general population."

The Adolescent and Adult Services Program offers a wide range of life skills, vocational and skill-building training programs for individuals with autism spectrum disorder aged 13 years and older. 

"Being able to complete a job search is quite overwhelming for some," said Caines. "To go on the internet, how do I know what to search for, how do I know if I'm qualified for these jobs that are posted."

The society is also part of a national program called 'Ready, Willing & Able', with the same goal.

It helps adults with autism develop the interpersonal skills needed to look for work but at the same time works with employers to understand autism, how it can present itself in the workplace and how to adapt.

"So an autism 101 kind of thing," said Caines. "Then we provide job coaches that work as liaison between the employer and employee, to help support the employee in the role but also help the employer understand the needs of the employee."

Spencer Yee is 24-years-old and living with autism. He received one-on-one training and is a graduate. He's been working at the Strathmore Tim Horton's for 4 years.

"Men and women on the spectrum are skilled like no tomorrow," said Yee. "But this program shows us a whole new atmosphere, it allows them to see I can actually do this, let’s do this, let’s do some more you know."

Yee says he wants to work and earn his own money. His job has given him confidence.

"There will be a little bit of insecurities and moments that will discourage you now and then but most of the time I'm very punctual, I'm honest," said Yee. "If something does happen at work I would say something actually happened and I have to take time to take care of that before I get to this task."

The program has a number of local and national business partners. Purolator in Calgary has 500 employees and 18 are graduates from the society's training program.

Jenny Ma is a Purolator courier manager and says there is constant movement and change in the work environment. The fast pace continues through morning and evening shifts where staff have to be adaptable and resilient.

"Working with the employees that are from this program, we find that as long as they have the notice they're very quick to adapt," said Ma. "They’re highly intelligent, they have a fantastic memory, you train them once and they're good to go."

The Society for Treatment of Autism has started a new pilot project called 'Job Seeking During COVID-19 – you thought it was tough before!'

This project aims to support autistic job seekers from 15-years-old and up with the unique challenges and barriers that have been brought about due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Learn more about the society HERE