Autism & IDD Services

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

ASD, as defined by the DSM-5, describes individuals who, to varying degrees, have difficulty with a number of things you or I may take for granted, including verbal and nonverbal communication, especially interpreting nonverbal cues. Individuals on the spectrum may also exhibit repetitive behaviors, and may be hyper or hypo sensitive to certain sensory or environmental influences such as noise, smells, or activity.

The word spectrum is here for a reason.  The level of ASD impairment varies dramatically across this spectrum.  Individuals diagnosed with ASD may very well have the potential to succeed in competitive employment scenarios.  At The River City Group, we know this and we have assisted our ASD clientele with securing professional, paraprofessional, and service sector employment.  In each of these instances the job search process began with a thorough discovery process that helped both our client and our staff understand what factors would play a role in determining a successful outcome.  Identifying environmental and cultural influences that may negatively affect our client’s potential forms the foundation for a successful job search.  Are there sensory factors that may cause discomfort? Is there a substantial amount of forward-facing customer contact required?

ENVIRONMENTAL WORK ASSESSMENTS

This is where an Environmental Work Assessment may be of value.  EWAs are conducted by The River City Group’s Employment Specialists who have earned the Autism certification through Relias Learning and The University of North Texas. As we all know, environmental influences play a critical role in determining the potential for success with any job, and any employee – including all of us. For individuals with developmental disorders like Autism, the influence of environment is magnified, and can in fact represent the biggest barrier to workplace success.  Is there a difference in food service work at Ft. Sam Houston vs. the corner McDonalds?  Yep, there is.  Noise levels, activity levels, lighting, interaction requirements, etc. are all very different, and DD clients are going to react differently based on environment.

Accordingly, EWAs are used to determine what type of work environment offers our client the best chance for success.  The impact of things like ambient noise, work pace, and work culture are evaluated in real-time as our client performs sample job functions.  Typically, we will sample three different work environments in order to establish a composite, model setting.  Discovering and codifying the influences and environmental effects unique to each site serves to inform us what a plausible path forward might look like.  As importantly, we can mitigate the potential anxiety and associated bad outcomes that occur when we assume an environment is suitable – based on our experiences, instead of our client’s perceptions and/or reactions.  When barriers to success are rooted in environmental dimensions, identifying, isolating, and ameliorating any negative factors can go a long way toward increasing our client’s potential for success.

ASD SUPPORTS

Another useful tool for enhancing the prospects for job success is ASD Supports. ASD Supports can take on many forms.  Advocacy at a job site that helps to eliminate discrimination or ignorance and builds bridges of understanding and tolerance. Problem-solving assistance that can help redefine catastrophic situations as manageable.  Maybe even identifying technology based solutions for communication barriers.  Creativity, imagination, and diligence define the provision of excellent ASD Supports.

VITA DMF

The River City Group is a proud partner of The Dan Marino Foundation (DMF) and their innovative training tool for individuals with ASD and IDD, VITA DMF.  VITA, or Virtual Interactive Training Agent, is a state of the art program designed to assist individuals on the spectrum and individuals with other developmental disabilities with the expansion of their interviewing skills.  A collaborative research and development team that includes the DMF, the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies, and Google.org continues to refine the software.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

VITA DMF uses a set of virtual interviewers, or avatars, possessing a variety of personality characteristics to provide ASD and IDD trainees with a supportive, interactive experience designed to level the interview playing field.  Becoming more comfortable with the interview process through repetition in a less stressful learning environment is extremely important to a population already facing substantial hiring barriers.  VITA’s avatars can be programmed to offer a wide array of interview options that include not only content, but presentation, personality, and workplace setting.  The possibilities are virtually (pun intended) endless.  Initial data from VITA’s research into program efficacy are very encouraging, with participants receiving job offers at a rate of approximately 3 times the disabled population as a whole.  VITA participants are averaging an 80% improvement in interviewing skills after finishing the program.

VITA DMF training sessions are conducted at our offices on Broadway in a quiet, distraction-free environment by a trained system operator.  Participants typically require about 10 sessions to fully realize the benefits of the program and take advantage of the next opportunity – an interview with a live hiring manager.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

ASD, as defined by the DSM-5, describes individuals who, to varying degrees, have difficulty with a number of things you or I may take for granted, including verbal and nonverbal communication, especially interpreting nonverbal cues. Individuals on the spectrum may also exhibit repetitive behaviors, and may be hyper or hypo sensitive to certain sensory or environmental influences such as noise, smells, or activity.

The word spectrum is here for a reason.  The level of ASD impairment varies dramatically across this spectrum.  Individuals diagnosed with ASD may very well have the potential to succeed in competitive employment scenarios.  At The River City Group, we know this and we have assisted our ASD clientele with securing professional, paraprofessional, and service sector employment.  In each of these instances the job search process began with a thorough discovery process that helped both our client and our staff understand what factors would play a role in determining a successful outcome.  Identifying environmental and cultural influences that may negatively affect our client’s potential forms the foundation for a successful job search.  Are there sensory factors that may cause discomfort? Is there a substantial amount of forward-facing customer contact required?

ENVIRONMENTAL WORK ASSESSMENTS

This is where an Environmental Work Assessment may be of value.  EWAs are conducted by The River City Group’s Employment Specialists who have earned the Autism certification through Relias Learning and The University of North Texas. As we all know, environmental influences play a critical role in determining the potential for success with any job, and any employee – including all of us. For individuals with developmental disorders like Autism, the influence of environment is magnified, and can in fact represent the biggest barrier to workplace success.  Is there a difference in food service work at Ft. Sam Houston vs. the corner McDonalds?  Yep, there is.  Noise levels, activity levels, lighting, interaction requirements, etc. are all very different, and DD clients are going to react differently based on environment.

Accordingly, EWAs are used to determine what type of work environment offers our client the best chance for success.  The impact of things like ambient noise, work pace, and work culture are evaluated in real-time as our client performs sample job functions.  Typically, we will sample three different work environments in order to establish a composite, model setting.  Discovering and codifying the influences and environmental effects unique to each site serves to inform us what a plausible path forward might look like.  As importantly, we can mitigate the potential anxiety and associated bad outcomes that occur when we assume an environment is suitable – based on our experiences, instead of our client’s perceptions and/or reactions.  When barriers to success are rooted in environmental dimensions, identifying, isolating, and ameliorating any negative factors can go a long way toward increasing our client’s potential for success.

ASD SUPPORTS

Another useful tool for enhancing the prospects for job success is ASD Supports. ASD Supports can take on many forms.  Advocacy at a job site that helps to eliminate discrimination or ignorance and builds bridges of understanding and tolerance. Problem-solving assistance that can help redefine catastrophic situations as manageable.  Maybe even identifying technology based solutions for communication barriers.  Creativity, imagination, and diligence define the provision of excellent ASD Supports.

VITA DMF

The River City Group is a proud partner of The Dan Marino Foundation (DMF) and their innovative training tool for individuals with ASD and IDD, VITA DMF.  VITA, or Virtual Interactive Training Agent, is a state of the art program designed to assist individuals on the spectrum and individuals with other developmental disabilities with the expansion of their interviewing skills.  A collaborative research and development team that includes the DMF, the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies, and Google.org continues to refine the software.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

VITA DMF uses a set of virtual interviewers, or avatars, possessing a variety of personality characteristics to provide ASD and IDD trainees with a supportive, interactive experience designed to level the interview playing field.  Becoming more comfortable with the interview process through repetition in a less stressful learning environment is extremely important to a population already facing substantial hiring barriers.  VITA’s avatars can be programmed to offer a wide array of interview options that include not only content, but presentation, personality, and workplace setting.  The possibilities are virtually (pun intended) endless.  Initial data from VITA’s research into program efficacy are very encouraging, with participants receiving job offers at a rate of approximately 3 times the disabled population as a whole.  VITA participants are averaging an 80% improvement in interviewing skills after finishing the program.

VITA DMF training sessions are conducted at our offices on Broadway in a quiet, distraction-free environment by a trained system operator.  Participants typically require about 10 sessions to fully realize the benefits of the program and take advantage of the next opportunity – an interview with a live hiring manager.