Autistry wins grant for employment program

Posted By on December 21, 2013


SAN RAFAEL (December 18, 2013) — Autistry Studios, a Marin-based nonprofit serving teens and adults with autism and other neurodevelopmental differences, has received a grant from national advocacy organization Autism Speaks.

Connor, Ian, and Dan at work

Connor, Ian, and Dan at work

The funding, one of Autism Speaks’ “Neighborhood Grants” given nationwide in December, was awarded to expand Autistry’s Model Employment Program, which creates an interim work environment for individuals on the autism spectrum. The program offers realistic job experience while providing a safe place to “practice” working and resolve any issues.

The $5,000 grant will enable Autistry to increase the number of participants in the program by funding additional staff and materials.

“The Model Employment Program is the middle step between our Core Workshops and supported employment in the community,” explains Janet Lawson, Executive Director and co-founder of Autistry.

The current employees are two young men, ages 18 and 20, who have attended Core Workshops for several years. Supervised by Autistry co-founder Dan Swearingen—who has an Asperger’s diagnosis himself—the two started with maintenance work but have gone on to craft several commissioned projects, including a garden shed and a custom birdhouse. They keep their own timesheets and are paid every two weeks.

Lawson stresses that the Model Employment Program isn’t just for post-secondary students, but also for adults who may have encountered a change in their living situation, such as loss of a job or an interruption in support services.

Model Employment participants start in the organization’s Core Workshops, which use students’ own interests as a way to teach pre-vocational and communication skills.

When ready, students are able to work in positions that Autistry has cultivated in the community. This past year, three Autistry students landed internships at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging.

“Working with the interns from the Model Employment Program at Autistry Studios has been a great experience for the Buck Institute,” says Brian Kennedy, PhD, CEO of the Buck Institute. “The interns come into our laboratories, integrate very well with the research concept, and make important contributions.”

Opportunities are also available at other local businesses.

“Autistry is a gift to our community of adults living with autism,” says Bryna Siegel, Director of Autism Clinic at UCSF. “This is how we make meaningful, rewarding employment for young adults with autism.”

About Autistry Studios
Autistry Studios was founded in 2008 by Janet Lawson and Dan Swearingen, a married couple with a teenage son on the autism spectrum. What began as a four-student workshop taught in their backyard barn/studio is now a thriving organization with more than 50 students in a 10,000 sq. ft. studio in San Rafael, CA. To learn more about Autistry, visit

About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. It is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit

About The Author

Janet is the Executive Director and co-founder of Autistry Studios (also known as SuperMom). She co-leads many of the workshops, counsels individuals and groups, supervises MFT interns, makes brownies, sews costumes, edits video projects, builds websites, and mops the floor.


One Response to “Autistry wins grant for employment program”

  1. Dan Swearingen says:

    Hi Everyone: please note. The Employment program is for students who have been in our Core Workshop Program for at least one year. The Core Workshop Program prepares individuals for work. The Employment Program is practice at work for students who are ready. We are not accepting any applicants to the employment program who have not graduated from the Core Workshop Program.