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Friday, September 29, 2023

UH System

UH-CL receives grant for efforts toward autism

UH-Clear Lake’s Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities received a $10,000 grant from the George and Mary Josephine Hamman Foundation for efforts towards adults with autism seeking and/or maintaining employment.

The Foundation has donated to UH-CL in past years for similar increments. The grant money will pool to graduate students working with autistic adults in a project named Vocational Training Program for Adults with High-Functioning Autism.

“The grant was awarded after the Foundation read a proposal from (writer) Carol Bornstein,” said Director of the UH-CL Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Dorothea Lerman. “They told us they try not to grant funds to the same organization over and over, but that they found this particular project intriguing.”

Lerman said a fairly large percent of adults with autism do well or excel academically but struggle to find employment because of poor or impaired social skills.

“Recent studies show that individuals with autism are less likely to have jobs than individuals with any kind of disability,” Lerman said. “This includes individuals with intellectual disability.”

The program accepts autism patients ages 16-45. Vocational social skills assessments are undertaken by referrals, answering questions such as what to do after no more work is to be done or how to handle a situation in which one has been told they’ve done something wrong. After reaching a vantage point through assessment and evaluation, training begins.

“One multiple-diagnoses referral — who has schizophrenia, psychotic disorder and autism — had difficulty with social boundaries and inappropriate comments, for example,” said Director of the Verbal Behavioral Clinic Sarah Lechago. “After working with her and identifying these things, we used behavior skill training to great effect. She also has auditory hallucinations, so for something like that, we use functional analysis to determine why the hallucinations happen and how to treat it.”

Unlike past years, however, the CADD’s current goal is to build relationships with places of employment and provide supported internships for those who have received vocational training.

“We’ve never done this before, so we’re spending the next few months building relationships with local businesses to make it happen,” Lerman said. “It’s definitely a better way to do the training, because they can get to real places and get real jobs, practicing skills we’ve been teaching them.”

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