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Working and Autism: The Case of Julian Muñoz

As we’ve discussed frequently in this space, one area in autism care that is frequently in need of more support and awareness is that of young adults. After all, with so much focus being placed on earlier and earlier diagnoses and treatment for autism in young children, much of the funding, research, and resources are often directed towards the younger people on the spectrum.

However, if a young adult aged 21 or older has completed secondary education but is not interested or able to go onto college, what opportunities are available to him or her?

This week, we’re going to take a look at the case of Julian Muñoz and how he was able to make the leap into full-fledged employment through a hiring company that focuses on placing young adults with autism in jobs.

According to his mother, Victoria, “My son Julian is 22, and for those that don’t know about people with special needs, schools provide services for these individuals until they turn 21 in most cases. Once they turn 21, they move into adult services and it becomes the responsibility of the state to provide services for these individuals. In most cases, they go to agencies that provide jobs or volunteer opportunities for these individuals.”

Victoria decided to take matters into her own hands when it came to Julian developing the skills he needed to complete a job and earn money and formed Autism EATS (Empowering those with Autism to Succeed) in order to establish a meaningful profession for her son.

Though Julian has difficulties with speech, when it comes to motor functions, he is able to organize and align objects. Thus, Autism EATS was set up for Julian to manage two vending machines, restocking and tending to them as needed. Julian works directly with two job coaches, Anthony McGeough and Daren Gill, who assist Julian as he arrives at St. Luke’s School, one of his two clients, to attend to the vending machine.

Julian Muñoz and his job coaches, Anthony McGeough and Darren Gill, arrive at 10 a.m. on a Thursday to re-stock a vending machine. Gill and McGeough lead Muñoz out of the minivan and down the stairs to the squash courts where the vending machine is. Each of the three help to carry down the supplies. Being careful is at the core of the process for Muñoz.

All three men are part of STAR, a not–for-profit organization in Norwalk, CT serving individuals of all ages who have developmental disabilities and providing support services to their families. STAR helped Julian to work two jobs before his mother even started Autism EATS, working at two different pizza places for two hours a week to assemble pizza boxes, both of which are paid jobs.
While STAR provides many job opportunities for adults with special needs in the area, there are so many jobs to go around. Thus, more and more parents across the country are doing what Victoria did and finding a way to build a bridge of support for young adults traversing that difficult transition from childhood to adulthood.