Young Adults

Autism Speaks Community Service Grant Completed

Lean Out! Networking and Working for Women with ASDs

We have completed our program related to job seeking and maintaining employment with women ages 18 to 28 years. Our program was entitled, "Lean Out: Networking and Working for women with Autism Spectrum Disorders."  We used the phrase "lean out" as a bit of a play on Sheryl Sandberg's book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.  Ms. Sandberg's book described the tough working environment that women face in the contemporary era in America, and leaning in means: "being ambitious in any pursuit." We thought about leaning out as an expression that captures the need to network and build relationships effectively in order to find and maintain satisfying employment.

Eighteen women participated in the program, in two sessions. Session I took place in April of 2015 and Session II took place in September/October of 2015. The program targeted skills related to seeking employment, from the most basic skills to more advanced skills such as networking as a necessary skill for employment. Additionally we covered choosing the right working environment, learning about workplace culture, presenting appropriately for work, maintaining relationships in the work environment, and enjoying your work.  We were very fortunate to work with Dr. Jane Thierfeld Brown, a professional with many years of experience working with young adults with ASD transitioning to college 

We have learned some important facts about the women who participated in our program. Although the majority had post secondary school educations, other factors were obstacles to being an effective job candidate in the competitive job market.  Some of these factors included severe depression, high levels of anxiety, and poor self esteem leading to low confidence in her ability to succeed. We also found that some candidates expectations about employability that did not match what is available in today's economic climate.  

Based on our experience, our revised curriculum, "Lean Out: Networking and Working for Women with ASDs"  contains eight learning modules that address the obstacles described above, as well as the important networking & job seeking skills women must have in today's competitive work environment. We designed an engaging Participant Workbook to accompany our curriculum, so that students can assess themselves and create a work plan. Our Participant Workbook provides media resources that are good for discussion and further study.  The "Lean Out" Powerpoint presentations provide visual supports for student learning, with 8 presentations designed to accompany the learning modules.  We are pleased to be able to offer these resources to those wishing to offer a program such as Lean Out.  We are happy to answer any questions about our curriculum and other materials, as well as our experience executing the program. Contact Kathy Koenig for questions, and click the links to download our materials.

The Lean Out Curriculum

The Lean Out Participant Manual

Lean Out Powerpoint Presentation

Media: Featured Books

Some titles that might be helpful...
  • “Aspergirls” by Rudy Simone
  • “Safety Skills for Asperger Women: How to save a perfectly good female life” by Liane Holliday Willey
  • “Asperger Love: Searching for Romance when you’re not wired to connect" by  Amy Harmon.

Media: Featured Films

Films we find interesting
  • "Napoleon Dynamite"  Fox Searchlight Pictures
  • "Adam"  Fox Searchlight Pictures

  • "Chocolate"  Sahamongkol Film International