31st March 2021
By Sarah Larner, ABA Supervisor
Undertaking work experience and gaining work-based skills is incredibly important for every young adult. Improved quality of life, social integration and financial independence are just some of the benefits reported from employment. All of these outcomes enable an individual to have choice over how they live their lives. Yet just 21.7% of adults with autism are in any form of employment.
The pandemic has had a major impact on young adults with autism accessing work experience placements. In March 2020 all external work experience placements for students at BeyondAutism Post-19 were postponed due to the outbreak.
Continuing to develop work-based skills remained incredibly important for our students. Therefore, the team needed to be creative in how these opportunities could still be safely available to ensure the students were not missing out. In September, the Post-19 Social Enterprise Scheme was born. Students were given the opportunity to trial a variety of potential social enterprise activities and pick their favourites. These activities included decorating coasters, making soap and designing tote bags.
A Post-19 production
In October, two social enterprise schemes were chosen based on student preferences: handmade lavender soaps and Christmas cards. Based on their interests, students undertook different roles within production, retail, distribution and administration. At Christmas 55 cards and 52 bars of soap were designed, produced, sold and distributed to the student’s friends and family. In Spring 2021 the scheme continues to be developed and the students have now expanded the range to include birthday and greetings cards, as well as keyrings.
Students are in the process of creating a shop on Etsy where they hope to expand their consumer base. All students now have an Individual Education Plan target related to the social enterprise scheme, and it is hoped that once it is safe to do so we will be able to look for external work experience placements that continue to build on the skills the students have learnt through participating in the social enterprise scheme.
Learner choice is at the heart of each decision we make at Post-19. The social enterprise has given us further insight into what each of our learners enjoys and will help us support them to build skills that will help them live a life of choice and opportunity. We’re always looking for new work experience placements to increase the options for our learners, please get in touch if you are able to support.
 ONS Opinions Survey 2011. Cited at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/disability-facts-and-figures/disability-facts-and-figures