Sunday, October 31, 2010

Program in Knoxville, Tenn., helps autistic adults find jobs

From WBIR-TV in Tenn.:

Every Tuesday, Jennifer Wilkerson helps "Scrappin in the City" open up shop.

"She vacuums. She dusts. She mops," says Yvette Morris, Co-Owner of "Scrappin In The City."

Not only is she a real go getter, Jennifer is perhaps the store's most pleasant employee.

"Just a week ago, she started giggling and laughing," says Sarah Preston, Co-Owner of "Scrappin In The City."

Jennifer is autistic. Thanks to a program called Breakthrough Knoxville, she landed a job at "Scrappin In The City" back in August.

"Breakthrough by design is to help improve the lives of adults with Autism," says William Brown with Breakthrough Knoxville. "That's our motto."

Breakthrough partners with local business to help autistic adults transition into the workplace.

"They're adults," says Brown. "They need to be out in the community, and by working, it's kind of the last real element of the greater community."

For Jennifer and other Breakthrough participants, it's a learning process and a chance for mental, physical and social growth.

"If you had seen her the first day she came in, she wanted to sit in the chair by the door and just watch us," says Morris. "She didn't do stairs and had trouble going over the walkway."

Now, Jennifer is busy cleaning upstairs and downstairs.

"She's got it down," says Brown. "And, in some cases, she has changed her routine. She's taken ownership of it."

"It's incredible the difference in just a few months," says Morris. "She'll be taking care of the whole store soon."

Two other Breakthrough participants are employed at Walgreens and Quizno's.