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Emmy at Joey D Fitness

Expanding Adult Services Programs

The theme of this year’s Els for Autism Golf Challenge Grand Finale, the culmination of the Foundation’s largest fundraising event, will be ‘Bridging the Gap’.  When young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) graduate from school at the age of 21, many have a difficult time developing a continuing education plan, gaining paid-employment, obtaining independent living, participating in community activities, or getting access to services.

This gap is so significant, the Foundation’s Adult Services team has been developing and delivering programs in three critical segments:

EMPLOYMENT Work Experience Program
Vocational Rehabilitation
Job Club
Bridge Program
CONNECT Mentor Program
INDEPENDENT LIVING Special Adults Life Skills Academy (SALSA)
Community Access Program
SOCIAL AND RECREATION The Spoken Wheel Society (Adults with autism social group)
Family Roundtable Discussions
Family Roundtable Cooking Lessons
Recreation including golf, yoga and music

For this newsletter article, we will focus on how the Foundation is ‘bridging the gap’ in the employment segment.

The flagship, Work Experience Program that started in 2016 partnering with PGA National Resort & Spa has now expanded beyond the hospitality industry and into the municipality industry with the Town of Jupiter and the healthcare industry with Jupiter Medical Center. To date, the Foundation has trained 81 number of participants and 52 have been hired into local businesses.

For participants in the Work Experience Program, the Foundation offers Job Club. This program provides instruction on pre-employment skills such as applying for a job, interview skills, letters of recommendation, teamwork, first impressions, self-advocacy, getting along with co-workers, handling criticism, and customer service.

For individuals needing additional skills before training in the community, Bridge Program provides a path for participants to matriculate into the off-campus Work Experience Program once specific criteria are met.

Read a few stories about graduates of the Work Experience Program that have gained paid employment:

The newest employment program launched by the Foundation in the fall of 2018 is the CONNECT Mentor program.  Research and anecdotal evidence suggest a mentor can have great impact on many aspects of an individual’s life and future success.  The CONNECT Mentor Program matches young adults who have completed the Foundation’s Work Experience Program and are receiving Supported Employment Services through the Foundation with young professionals in the community to support the mentee’s personal and professional growth.

After completing the first 10-month program, one of the mentors stated, “Since being in the program I have built confidence in my ability to mentor individuals with autism as they are looking to gain employment. I had no prior mentor experience in this capacity and the program guided me through any questions and concerns I may have had and was a great resource to lean on during the session. By participating in the program, I have expanded my professional skill-set and am better-equipped for leadership roles in the future.”

The Foundation’s Adult Services team is now focused on launching new microbusinesses on The Els Center of Excellence campus to train and employ individuals with ASD and other developmental disabilities. ‘Spectrum Venues’ will be the first business and will offer a variety of rental spaces to families and to the community at large who would like to utilize the beautiful facilities while supporting the mission of the Foundation to help people on the autism spectrum fulfill their potential to lead positive, productive and rewarding lives.

For additional information on the Foundation’s Adult Services programs, contact Dr. Kerri Morse, email:

As a reminder, all Affiliate Events and Golf Challenge teams that raise $15K or more by September 18, 2019, qualify to attend the two-day Grand Finale in Palm Beach, FL hosted by Ernie and Liezl Els. By fundraising and qualifying to attend, you will be able to experience BRIDGING THE GAP in person.