Frist Center for Autism and Innovation


I went through most of my life and didn’t
realize that I had autism. But I also have three children and all of
my children to some degree or another are also on the spectrum. I have two beautiful young boys one of whom
is on the spectrum. Vanderbilt has always believe been a leader
in the autism space and certainly we’ve been benefited their son who is on the autism spectrum. I have a personal connection with autism. One of my children is on the autism spectrum. But my personal way is probably the more powerful
one and that’s really about my son Aiden. About one in every 70 babies born in the U.S.
is on the autism spectrum. That’s more than three and a half million
Americans. And yet 85 percent of those individuals as
adults are unemployed. To me that statistic is unacceptable. It represents such a waste of human potential. That’s why a diverse team is creating a pipeline
of research and employment for people on the spectrum, through the Frist Center for
Autism and Innovation. So on the front end were potentially helping
autistic individuals that might be unemployed or underemployed find a job that match their
talents and gifts and at the same time science is learning to better understand people like
that. Measuring skills in a new way. Standardizing new testing methods for people’s
abilities on the spectrum and sort of ferreting out those job traits rather than a traditional
job interview. We want to have a way of allowing individuals
to show these are strengths that I have these have been vetted and measured by these new
measures. I may not interview in the way that you’re
used to somebody interviewing But here’s what I can do. Working with businesses. What do leaders need to do in organizations
to support people with autism because a lot of times leaders will get diversity training
in a number of ways. But what they don’t think is much about is
neurodiversity in the workplace. I think it’s just another form of diversity. Creating technology. In engineering. we try to solve real world problems. Like this
driving simulator helping autistic employees learn to drive and get to work. We develop the advanced technologies of the
computer science approaches the robotic approaches. Or this research tied to mirroring autistic
traits through artificial intelligence. And here is a case a clear case where there
is a need for kids with autism. Then doing solid research on these new professionals. And as we accumulate that data from a scientific
perspective we’ll be able to better understand. What’s working and what isn’t working and
how to better help people like the individuals that will be helping now. The science business and social potential
is huge. But for this team it’s personal. Because I know from first hand experience
how difficult it can be. And so the the opportunity to reach out and
do something positive for their lives is just it’s breathtaking. Opening doors so people on the autism spectrum
can reach their potential. When I think about my own son I like to say
that I wouldn’t change him for the world. And so I’ll change the world for him.

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