Autistry wins grant for employment program

| 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

Preparing For Work Booklist

| September 9, 2009

I just found a great online booklist at this Canadian site:  Parentbooks

Of that list here are my favorites:

tn_5 is against the law

A ‘5’ Is Against the Law! Social Boundaries Straight Up: an Honest Guide for Teens and Young Adults. Kari Dunn Buron

“Building on her popular 5-Point Scale, Kari Dunn Buron takes a narrower look at challenging behavior with a particular focus on behaviors that can spell trouble for adolescents and young adults who have difficulty understanding and maintaining social boundaries. Using a direct and simple style with lots of examples and hands-on activities, A ‘5’ Is Against the Law speaks directly to adolescents and young adults.”

tn_preparing for life

Preparing for Life: The Complete Guide for Transitioning to Adulthood for those with Autism/Asperger’s Syndrome. Jed Baker

“The author of the best-selling Social Skills Picture Book now speaks to the growing challenge of social skills in young, and-not-so-young, adults with autism/Asperger’s Syndrome. This easy-to-follow resource provides a complete toolbox of skills that can open doors to opportunities. Includes sections on perspective taking, non-verbal communication, conversational skills, goal setting, and stress management.”

tn_ready or not

Ready or Not, Here Life Comes. Mel Levine

“Dr. Mel Levine addresses the question of why some youngsters make a successful transition into adulthood while others do not. Instead of making a smooth transition into adulthood, many youngsters find themselves trapped in their teenage years, traveling down the wrong career road, unable to function in the world of work. These young people have failed, says Dr. Levine, to properly assess their strengths and weaknesses and have never learned the basics of choosing and advancing through the stages of a career. Ready or Not, Here Life Comes is a powerful commentary on our times and a book that can help adolescents and startup adults — with an assist from parents and educators — to spring from the starting gate of adulthood.”


Asperger Syndrome and Adolescence: Helping Preteens and Teens Get Ready for the Real World. Teresa Bolick

With anecdotes from dozens of teens with AS and practical, easy-follow advice, this books helps teens and parents navigate the confusion of the teen years with grace and optimism.

tn_developing talents revised edition

Developing Talents: Careers for Individuals with Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism, Revised Edition. Temple Grandin & Kate Duffy

This career planning guide is written specifically for high-functioning adolescents and young adults on the autism spectrum, their families, teachers, and counselors. The two authors weave together a unique blend of information and advice based on personal experiences. Temple Grandin draws from her own experience with autism spectrum disorders and her professional career, and Kate Duffy uses her expertise on employment issues and the mother of two teenagers with autistic-like behaviors. First-hand accounts of job experiences and advice from individuals representing a broad range of careers particularly suited for high-functioning individuals on the autism spectrum round off this exciting new resource.


How to Find Work that Works for People with Asperger Syndrome. Gail Hawkins

A great guide for helping people with Asperger syndrome get into the workplace and keeping them there.

Book: Boy Alone: A Brother’s Memoir

| May 27, 2009

Has anyone read this book? I just ordered it from Amazon based on Kim Stagliano’s post at Huffington Post “Boy Alone. But Not for Long.”

I know sibling relationships in families with autistic children are really tough. Our son Ian is an only child which is certainly easier now but a source of long term fear: Ian will far outlive us. For families where their autistic children have siblings the reality is this: your child’s siblings will be the longest relationships in your child’s life.

I know we have several siblings of students in the workshops who say “I’d like to build something…” We’re working hard to have room to add sibling workshops and even workshops where siblings can do things together.