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Iowa Employers Can Benefit by Hiring People with Autism

Iowans with autism and potential employers are meeting up in West Des Moines today. (
Iowans with autism and potential employers are meeting up in West Des Moines today. (
August 12, 2016

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa - About 8,000 Iowans have autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Their advocates say it's hard to pin down exactly how many are available for jobs, because once they leave school, they're no longer tracked by the state, although it's estimated to be a significant percentage who want to work.

Kris Steinmetz, who heads the Autism Society of Iowa, said with the right job, people with autism can flourish.

"A lot of people with autism have wonderful math and computer skills, actuarial scientists, people at NASA now, a lot of scientists have autism, and are doing wonderfully," she said.

The Autism Society is hosting a free employment conference in West Des Moines today, so people with autism can meet prospective employers.

Steinmetz said it's important to not only help people with autism in their job searches, but to prompt employers to learn how they can best help a person with autism who becomes part of their team.

"Some of the things that they maybe need to be cognizant of is communication," she added. "How can there be some structure throughout the day and assist them? If something is bothering them, what can we do to assist with that? Who do they go to, to discuss that?"

Becky Harker, executive director of the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council, said events like today's conference also are important in providing encouragement.

"People with autism, family members, employers, the employment support people to really talk about, 'Look you can do it, and here's how you can do it, and here are employers and people with autism who actually have done it,'" she said.

Bob Kessler, Public News Service - IA