STRIVE helps students with autism gain job skills

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COLUMBIA – Some students were “striving” for a new learning experience Thursday night. 

Parents of students with autism gathered at the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopment Disorders on January 10 to learn about a program called “STRIVE.” It stands for “Self-Determined Readiness Through Individual Vocational Experiences.”

STRIVE is a program designed for 18-to-25-year-olds with autism. It is a post-secondary program that offers two semesters of non-credit classes to help with the development of skills for seeking employment.

“The first semester is based on direct instruction, work experience and peer mentorship,” said the STRIVE program coordinator Cortney Fish. “The second semester we offer competitive paid employment for individuals based at one of the sites that they've worked at.”

2018 is only the second year the program has been around. Last year the program had five participants, and all of them are currently employed.

Participants job shadow while in the program, which may later lead to jobs. 

John Frangenberg was one of the past participants of the program. He came to visit some of the workers at the open house.

After doing STRIVE last year, he now has a job at MU Accounting.

“I was a job shadow, kind of an internship type thing,” he said. “After the program ended, they liked me enough that they decided to keep me.”

Participants rate the jobs they shadow from highest to lowest, then they get to shadow one of the workers. Frangenberg said he now has his own STRIVE participants shadowing him.

“I was in a dark place around the time that I stumbled upon this program,” Frangenberg said. “It’s been something of a godsend.”

He said the program taught him things like goal-setting techniques and how to be interviewed.

According to the center’s website, STRIVE has three pillars to prepare participants for employment: 

  • Direct skill instruction led by staff from the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders
  • Job experience and coached feedback
  • Peer mentoring for participants; parent liaison for caregivers