Diversity Fellow Project, Chris Danguilan

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Disability employment professionals experience with young adults on the Autism Spectrum: diverse populations and diverse opportunities

Disability employment professionals experience with young adults on the Autism Spectrum: diverse populations and diverse opportunities [download PDF]

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Project Narrative

1. Please describe your activities during your fellowship experience. Describe your final capstone project(s).
As an AUCD Diversity Fellow I had the good fortune to attend the 2018 Disability Policy Seminar in Washington DC. Highlights include the AUCD Trainee Summit and presentations relevant to my studies including Employment First progress. I also participated in direct action visits to Senators Duckworth and Durbin's offices where we met with staff as AUCD representatives to champion our projects and thank them for their continued support. Sharing experiences with AUCD Diversity and LEND fellows from around the country gave me a richer understanding of the multi-cultural disability community. Therefore, a multi-faceted approach to our work with and service delivery to the community should reflect this understanding. The AUCD Disability Fellowship and Disability Policy Seminar are perfect opportunities to reboot our intentions to work with the disability community and refresh our goals for the work to which we are committing.

The objective of my project was to engage developmental disability service providers in informal discussions of the consumer experience from an institutional and community advocate point of view. These discussions would help develop a deeper understanding of the concerns and conditions of young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) transitioning toward independence, to what extent their families are involved, and to what degree they might differ for young adults from historically underrepresented communities.

2. Who did your project inform, help, influence or impact? (UCEDD, individual, community, state) How?
The delivery of service to autistic young adults and their families is a team effort. Therefore, including the experience of the service delivery community working with each other, their clients, and families would be helpful in the realization of successful service outcomes. This information would identify gaps in knowledge and areas of tension that might be addressed in the development and delivery of programs to young adults with autism and their families to help them, access employment and achieve independence.

3. Why did you choose to work on that project(s)?
Young adults with autism have yet to achieve rates of post-secondary education and employment outcomes compared to young adults having other neurodevelopmental disabilities. Furthermore, within the community of young adults with autism, those from marginalized communities have still lower rates. It may be service providers need as much help from the community they serve to address this discrepancy as does the community receiving services. As a parent of two children with neurodevelopmental disabilities from a marginalized population I hope my project will give some insight toward this end.

4. What did you gain from being a Diversity Fellow?
The Fellowship invited me to join a larger group of people having a common interest in building community. Within this community we can share our tools and our experiences to reinforce our passion for our work, together.

5. How will this experience impact your education or career decisions?
My experience has allowed me to recognize what I have to contribute personally and professionally in my role as not just an academic but as an advocate for people with autism, their families, and service providers. I hope to build a career working with families to facilitate our participation in program development and delivery.

6. What are your future goals? Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
My immediate goal is to complete my PhD program keeping in mind what I gained as an AUCD Diversity and LEND fellow. Between now and my future five years forward, I look forward to working with families having members with autism to deliver their experience to a larger community of stakeholders. I will look for community based professional opportunities that empower families to participate in policy development and programmatic response.

7. What recommendations do you have for other Fellows?

  • Ask for help even when you don’t believe you need help. Giving yourself permission to ask for help invites others to ask you for help. Your AUCD Fellowship Director is there to help you and wants to help you.
  • For me, the Fellowship was an opportunity to say what I don’t know rather than to tell people what I do know.
  • The stipend is a financial resource to access tools for research and our capstone project that might otherwise be outside of one’s budget.
  • Your virtual AUCD meetings can be captioned and automatically transcribed. This can be a very useful resource for your deliverables. Furthermore, if your project includes interviews consider real time transcription that can be dialed in over speaker phone. To interview without having to take notes or the visible intrusion of a tape recorder creates a more relaxed and open interview environment.
  • Attending the Disability Policy Seminar in April and the AUCD Conference in November are welcome opportunities to demonstrate commitment to the communities we work with and for, jump start careers, and invigorate academic or professional goals. Congratulations! Enjoy and good luck!

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