Temple Grandin to Appear at Club Nokia

By Christina Elston

Special Needs Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin, Ph.D., one of the world’s best known autism advocates, will appear at a celebration in May that will raise funds for a new, local job placement program for people on the spectrum. PHOTO BY ROSALIE WINARD

One of the rock stars of the special needs world will take the stage at Club Nokia May 20 – along with a host of musical, celebrity and other guests – to raise awareness about the lack of jobs for young adults on the spectrum, and to benefit a new pilot program designed to help.

Temple Grandin, Ph.D., is widely considered one of the most accomplished and well-known adults with autism. Her early life and achievements as a designer of livestock handling facilities and a professor of animal science at Colorado State University are detailed in the Emmy-winning 2010 HBO biopic Temple Grandin. She was featured in the “Heroes” category on Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world that year.

Grandin and other prominent adults on the autism spectrum will offer testimonials at the event, which will be interspersed with performances from featured guest artists, some of whom are also on the autism spectrum.

Appearing along with Grandin will be teacher, author and advocate Stephen Shore, Ed. D.; musician Susan Sheller; autism advocate, filmmaker and actor Alex Plank; rapper Rio “Soulshocka” Wyles; musician Chadwick Johnson; artist Michael Tolleson; animator/illustrator Dani Bowman; artist Noah Schneider; California State Assembly member Joel Anderson; musician Nick Guzman and filmmaker Taylor Cross.

The nonprofit vocational center and animation studio Exceptional Minds will be honored with a Community Visionary Award. Actor Ed Asner and his son, Matt, Southern California director of Autism Speaks, will receive Leadership Visionary Awards. And a Trailblazer Award will be presented to Wayne Fogelsong, principal of the Miller Career and Transition Center in LAUSD.

Tickets for the event, which runs from 8-10 p.m., are $44.49-$154.50, and proceeds will benefit the “Autism Works Now!” pilot program.

The two-year pilot, based in Van Nuys, will function as a mentorship, job placement and on-the-job work support program for individuals with autism and related disorders. Autism Works Now! is designed to function as a temporary job agency, with Autism Works Now! employees reaching out to local employers to help them fill available positions. Volunteers from Autism Works Now! would also provide training or job coaching for workers with autism. The goal would be that these workers could transition from temporary into paid full-time positions.

“We have to bridge that gap between what our kids can do and the opportunities that are available to them,” says event organizer Joanna Lara, who is also founder of Autism Movement Therapy, Inc. Lara notes that 35 percent of young adults with autism have no paid employment. “We don’t really have an in-place job database,” Lara says.

Tickets for the event are on sale, and available online at www.clubnokia.com/events.

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