Long Island nonprofits, local leaders seek to create job opportunities for people with autism

WEST BABYLON, Long Island (WABC) -- On Long Island, nonprofit organizations and local leaders are on a mission to help adults with autism find employment as the national unemployment rate for those with autism hovers around 85%.

Those with Winters Center for Autism recently partnered with Long Island Select Healthcare in Central Islip to help three young men with autism secure permanent employment.

"We live in a time that we need to give people a chance," said Long Island Select Healthcare CEO Dr. James Powell.

David Barrasso, 26, is one of the men participating in the program. He's training to do clerical work.

"I feel so powerful," Barrasso said.

Those with Winters Center for Autism, based in West Babylon, are helping Long Island Select Healthcare train the three men with the promise that the organization will give the men permanent employment at the end of their training.

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"This a program that works. Everybody just needs an opportunity," said Patrick Winters with Winters Center for Autism.

Powell said Long Island Select Healthcare hopes to expand the program to its other locations.

"Our organization can have purpose and profit all mixed together," he said.

By December, Winters Center for Autism hopes to have turned a vacant building in West Babylon into a job training center for those with autism.



"Doesn't matter how far or little they are on the spectrum, we're going to create a custom plan for them to train them for whatever job they need to go do," Winters said.

Winters Center for Autism was started by Joe Winters, the former owner of Winters Brothers Waste Systems. Winters died in January of complications from the coronavirus.

Winters' son Sean Winters has autism, and for years, those with Winters Brothers have been hiring individuals with autism at their office in West Babylon.

"If we can do it, every business can do it," said Michele Winters.

Islip Town Councilman Jim O'Connor said he is doing his part at the government level to connect local businesses with adults with autism.

O'Connor's 23-year-old son has autism.

"There is so much that the autistic community can do and what they have to offer and it really is being untapped," he said.

O'Connor is the Chair of the Town of Islip Disability Advisory Board.

"Working alongside our partners in the Islip community, the Disability Advisory Board continues to champion access and opportunity for individuals with physical and sensory disabilities in our Town," said Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter.

At the national level, Joyce Benjamin with Autism FYI is working to create more employment opportunities for individuals with autism.

"Everyone needs to give them a chance," Benjamin said.

Click here to become an employer partner with the Winters Center for Autism.

The U.S. Department of Labor has compiled a list of resources for employers who are interested in hiring a person with autism.

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