Access Internship Program

Coming in 2015

Coming in 2015, Experience Education will be piloting our Access Internship Program (AIP). The AIP is designed  for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), giving them the opportunity to use their summer breaks to undertake short-term guided practicums. These practicums will help students overcome some of the barriers to employment that almost all adults with ASD face. 

Barriers to Employment

Job interviews are a huge barrier to employment because of the requirement for good communications skills. Just 15% of those with autism have full-time jobs according to NAS research, while another 9% are in part-time work.
— "Autistic Workers: Loyal, Talented, Ignored" (The Guardian: )

Autism Spectrum Disorder is an increasingly common diagnosis for young people in Canada and the United States - as many as 1 in 88 children is now diagnosed with Autism. While many states and provinces provide resources for youth with autism, the majority of these resources end when youth become young adults at age 18. While many youth with autism though go on to engage in the workforce and higher education - the numbers are far lower than for the general population, or even for other youth with special needs.

Research has been done to identify some of the barriers to employment for young adults on the spectrum. Some of these barriers include the need for job interviews, difficulty understanding manager instructions, difficulty interacting with coworkers (source), and the need for "job supports such as job coaching, follow up, and follow along supports" (source). 

Each of these barriers are in areas that are often shared with international students. Experience Education has worked for 6 years to develop systems to help guide foreign students into the workplace, systems which assist them with job interview preparation, communication with coworkers, understanding instructions, and doing regular and detailed follow up. It's clearly not as simple as all that of course, because while we have systems in place for working with international students, these don't translate 1-to-1 to programs for students with autism. Instead they provide a framework upon which additional ASD-specific supports are added to help students break down these barriers to employment.

The Program Model

Experience Education is in the process of developing a program for post-secondary students with autism that will integrate job supports into a closely monitored practicum. The practicum is designed to take place over 4 weeks. At the start of this 4-week period, students have a counselling session with a 'tutor' who prepares them for integration into the workplace. Once the practicum starts, the student will work for 4 part-time days each week and during that time, have regular visits and coaching sessions with their tutor - who will spend up to an hour a day on site with them. 

Host companies are carefully selected and coached - with Experience Education staff helping them to build a practicum that closely matches the student's interests and strengths. 

What's Next?

The AIP is a pilot program of EE, and so will be doing restricted enrolment in the summer of 2015. Before then, EE is talking with companies and people in the autism community to understand best how to help students succeed, and hot to match them effectively so that both the student and the host company benefit.

If you have any questions about the AIP, please email us at contact @