Great Transition: Autism in the Workplace

12 May

Six students with blue backpacks cross Ocean Parkway. They’re not going on a field trip. They’re going to work.

Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday Alex Ponzetto, a teacher at the Jim Thorpe School in Brooklyn, brings her kids to Goodwill on Lafayette Avenue. All of her students have been diagnosed with autism. All of them are over the age of 18. Five of the kids are non-verbal and do not express themselves in words.

Ponzetto, who fought for this work program, hopes that by teaching them job skills in a real world setting she will help the students transition out of school. She hopes one day all of her kids will be able to earn a living working at Goodwill or a library sorting books or even as a janitor.

The kids spend the day taking clothes off of hangers, removing tags and sorting shoes. Though these sound like simple tasks to many, Ponzetto says it can take the students a year to really get the hang of it.

Though she believes the system has its flaws, she is excited by the progress they have made.

Below is a look at a day at work with these six kids.

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