Program in New Jersey helps people with autism find fulfillment, job opportunities

Anthony Johnson Image
Friday, September 15, 2023
Program provides fulfillment, job opportunities for people with autism
There are no limits for how high people can soar at Joy Dew, an organization dedicated to helping those with autism find their voice and purpose. Anthony Johnson has the story.

RIDGEWOOD, New Jersey (WABC) -- An organization in New Jersey is determined to create a community that allows people with autism feel comfortable and thrive.

There are no limits on how high they can soar, especially when they are surrounded by a community that cares and can help elevate their potential.

"As soon as we put them in an environment who understands how to help them communicate, understand who they are and respect them as individuals, they're able to really create something different for them in terms of their employment," said Karen Millican of Joy Drew.

The organization Joy Dew is dedicated to helping people with autism find their special gifts, and there are many.

"In the classroom, they've been building robots all around and now they are in the process of manipulating them," Millican said.

Organizers say about 80% of people diagnosed with autism face communication challenges, but at Joy Drew, this becomes an opportunity to discover their own voice.

"Part of it is building trust with them, you know," program coordinator Frank Contreras said. "Getting to know them. When they feel comfortable, they open up."

Using tablets and other prompts, instructors guide the members in learning robotics, multimedia and radiology.

"They also do well with pattern recognition," Millican said. "They have vivid acuity. They pay attention to detail. They do well with things people do in an ongoing basis."

Some of those things include reading radiology scans for breast cancer pre-screening or recognizing patterns on maps, intricate details that many others would miss.

"For me it is very personal," founder Moish Tov said.

Tov created Joy Dew because he was determined to give his two boys with autism a normal life where they could thrive.

"We're redefining autism," he said.

With his leadership and caring instructors, members are discovering limitless possibilities.

"I feel like my true purpose is to serve. I feel like this is a calling of mine," Joy Drew instructor Christina Graham said.

"I have been here," member Monica Smolyar said. "The teachers are nice. My friends are nice. It's a great program."

This community of care and sharing is growing with another Joy Drew location expected to open in Livingston by the end of the year.

It's a model program that could spread nationwide.


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