HERSHEY, Pa. (WHTM) – The Vista School in Dauphin County is helping adults with autism find jobs in central Pennsylvania.
“Don’t underestimate the capabilities of your child,” said Jim Bouder, COO of The Vista Foundation and The Vista School. “No matter how severe the symptoms of their autism might be, they are capable of working and enjoying the same benefits of adulthood as we do.”
Lisa Cade says her 23-year-old son Jay is an example of the benefits of this program.
“If he had to go out and find a job on his own, it would have been very difficult,” Cade said. “I couldn’t foresee it happening.”
Jay’s autism means he only usually speaks a few words at a time, making the traditional job interview process difficult. The Vista School helped him find work at Hershey Entertainment and Resorts, where he sorts paperwork and is helping with the transition to electronic systems for nearly 30 hours each week.
Cade says her son has discovered a sharp memory, an ability to pick up on things quickly, and a strong work ethic.
“When you have a child with autism your dreams kind of change a little bit,” she said. “And when you get to that adulthood time in their life, you just want them to be able to give back; you want them to work, to have socialization.”
Cade and other parents who have children with autism have struggled with that dream. A study from Washington University shows 35 percent of U.S. young adults with autism have not had jobs or further education after leaving high school. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says last year, only 16.8 percent of the population with disabilities was employed.
“Give our kids a chance,” Cade said. “Don’t look at the disabilities, look at the abilities they have because there’s so much resource in them to be able to give. Just give them a chance.”
Local businesses say they’re benefiting from their arrangement with The Vista School.
“So far, it’s been a home run both for us and for Jay,” Hershey Entertainment and Resorts spokeswoman Laura Woodburn said. “For us to be able to work side by side with colleagues who do have a disability, it allows us to see how we can then translate the need into some of our guests who might have a disability.”
“They’ve made our dream become a reality,” Cade said, referring to both The Vista School and Hershey Entertainment and Resorts. “That’s what it’s done. He’s happy, i’m happy and he’s giving back.”
If you would like more information about The Vista School, you can visit thevistaschool.org.