Most of us could attach a file to an email in our sleep. But for a person with special needs, that seemingly simple action can be a Herculean task. That’s why special education teacher Michele McKeone created Autism Expressed, a first-of-its-kind online learning program that teaches digital skills to adolescents with autism and other developmental disabilities, TakePart reports.
The program, which just launched last summer, is already being used by thousands of students in public and private schools and in many homes. As TakePart notes, autism is one of the fastest growing developmental disabilities, and about 1 in 88 children fall somewhere on the spectrum. Worryingly, the U.S. Department of Labor found that people with disabilities are unemployed at a rate of 14.3 percent, while the unemployment rate of people without disabilities is a drastically lower 6.8 percent.
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To help close this gap, Autism Expressed teaches its students the web skills many of us may take for granted, such as online etiquette, coding, building web portfolios, and attaching resumes and cover letters to applications.
“Today the ability to email, social network, and simply navigate the Web are essential life skills,” McKeone told TakePart. “Most of us have learned these skills through our work, friends and family, or by sitting down in front of computer and exploring. For our students with developmental disabilities, this is not always the case, due to their need for a specialized approached to their learning.”
While a single start-up won’t level the completely playing field for every person that is afflicted with autism, it does provide them a path to increased employment opportunities. And in this country — the land of opportunity — isn’t that a great place to start?