Autism in the Work Force

By Samantha Kolkey, LCSW

At Options for College Success, we have career and job support services as part of our core curriculum as our students tend to struggle with finding their passion, building their resume, and interviewing skills.  Our students want jobs, they want to be employed.  However, their challenges with social and communication skills make it difficult for them to gain employment in a desired position.

Those with autism are extremely valuable in the work force but many individuals with autism are unemployed despite their ability to work independently. CBS Sunday Morning produced a news story about this issue and what some companies are doing when hiring individuals on autism spectrum.

“Don’t give up, and make sure to always aim high  Don’t aim in the middle. Shoot for the stars every time because you never know what may happen.” Christopher P.


Dating and Autism

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By Marcella Mackowiak

I’m not a parent, but I’m watching my friends and family raise teenagers. I find it humorous listening to the stories that they tell me, but I could not imagine what these stories would sound like if their teens were on the spectrum. Maybe not funny, but more perplexing, like “how do I explain [x],” or “is it okay for Jane to know about [y]?” Autism Speaks posted a great article which includes dating tips for teens on the spectrum. Click the link to read below, but they also have some other dating articles. I’ve attached an extra one on tips for potential dating partners.


The Needs That the State Does Not See

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By Marcella Mackowiak

One of my teammates sent me this article that was posted on the Chicago Sun Times website yesterday. It really struck a chord with me, as this is the population that I serve. We as a group need to do more to advocate to the state the importance of day programs for challenged people. However, when our state feels that these things are no longer important, those with ASD suffer. What can we do to make it better? Please feel free to post comments below.


Personal Interests in those with ASD

By Samantha Kolkey, LCSW

Recently, the mother of one of our students shared an article with me from The Mighty.  First hand experiences from those with autism are something we should all listen to.  If we as clinicians, educators, parents, and friends have trouble understanding someone with autism (or anyone for that matter), it is best to hear about their reality, their outlook, and their feelings in order to best serve the person.

Christine Motokane provides a look into her experience with society’s focus on “age-appropriate interests,”  and how this impacts a person with autism.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this story.  Please share in the comments section.

Have a great week everyone!

Who said I want to eat that???



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By Marcella Mackowiak

One of the things that my sister noticed about my nephew before he was diagnosed with ASD was his eating habits. His twin sister was eating her food and his, and he had no problem with that! He did eat grapes, apples, and fruit snacks, but that was about it. His vitamin deficiency was one of the first signs to the doctors that something was not right (I am not sure if all of my blog posts will include reflections about my nephew, but perhaps just for now, as this is also a sort of support for me too).

Austism Speaks has published an article which includes mealtime tips for those parents who have problems at chow time. While my nephew is still quite young, I’m sure that my sister will find that some of these will come in handy as he gets older.


There’s an App for that!

By Samantha Kolkey

As we all may know, there are literally applications for our phones, tablets and computers that will help with almost anything.

All of our students, as most people can relate to, are glued to their phones.  If I can help them utilize their phones to support the development of executive functioning skills, to establish a routine or habit, to limit distractions, or provide other ways to study for their classes, then I am open to this technology.

I was recently working with a student who has executive functioning deficits and needed support in establishing a more independent morning routine, including a more effective alarm.  A colleague suggested that I look at the app “Alarmy.”  Alarmy allows the person to set their alarm with a choice of settings: Take a Picture, Solve Math Problems, and Shake Shake (where you must shake the phone a specific number of times for the alarm to turn off).  This app helps decrease one’s tendency to snooze their alarm multiple times, and to not stay in bed for a long period of time.

Other apps to explore:

Streaks:  This app helps in establishing habits.  You can choose up to 12 tasks that you want to turn into daily habits. When it is checked off for the day, it creates a streak.  The visual of the streak creates a sense of accomplishment, aiming to motivate the individual to continue with the task.  If it is not checked off, the streak resets to zero.

Forest: Stay Focused, Be Present: For those who have trouble stepping away from the internet to complete a task, study session, etc.  This app allows the user to create their own forest.  You begin by planting a seed.  Within the next 30 minutes, the seed will gradually grow into a tree. If you end up going to browse websites, the tree will wither away.  You can even put specific websites that distract you most on a “Blacklist.” This app will help to cultivate effective time management, and can also be used to decrease dependency on the internet.

Quizlet:  Supports studying on the go.  You can get gentle reminders to study, see how you’re improving, and work in short study sessions.  This allows you to create a study plan and can guide you through what and when to practice.

AudioNote:  This app combines the function of a notepad and a voice recorder to save time and improve the quality of one’s notes. AudioNote will automatically index lectures, meetings, interviews, or study sessions.

IntervalMinder:  This app can be used to support one’s therapy and self-monitoring goals. It is very effective for monitoring breaks.


Happy App-ing!




Goal Setting for the New Year

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Written by Guest Blogger Matthew Schneider

Ah, the New Year. The holidays have come and gone, the calendar has turned, and the winter air is full of hope for the year ahead. If you’re anything like me, this time of the year steers your thoughts towards setting new goals and resolutions for the coming year. I’ve found that New Year’s resolutions are a great way to think about how I can make my life better or grow as a person. But, I’ve also found that three weeks into each year my commitment to my resolution has practically disappeared. So, before setting my resolutions this year I found a great article by Jen Miller of the New York Times with tips on how to make an effective 2018 resolution.


She recommends following SMART guidelines, which means that your resolutions should be:


  • Specific: Make your resolution clear using concrete numbers or timelines.
  • Measurable: Make sure you keep track of your progress!
  • Achievable: Smaller resolutions can be achieved faster, which will keep you motivated!
  • Relevant: Does your resolution really matter to you?
  • Time-bound: Give yourself a good amount of time to achieve your resolution!


SMART guidelines can be useful for anyone who would like to stay committed to their New Year’s resolution. And, the really good thing about the SMART guidelines is that you can use them to make a goal at any point during the year. Our students use SMART guidelines to set their academic goals. By working hard and staying committed to their goals, our students find success.


If you’d like to read Jen’s article, here is the link!


Happy New Year!