EAST WINDSOR: Employment door opened for those with autism

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A new community partnership between Windsor Dermatology and Eden Autism of Princeton has opened doors to employment for individuals with autism.
Kevin Valluzzo, 25, and Andrew Asch, 24, began working at the dermatology practice at the end of October, after Eden, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of individuals with autism, added Windsor Dermatology in East Windsor as a partner for its community integrated Employment Program. The goal of Eden’s employment program is for students and adult participants to secure community-based jobs and build their own relationships and social networks.
“Too often the focus is put on the disability and we want to help change that perception. These young men walked into our office and immediately felt like part of our office family,” said Dr. Jerry Bagel, medical director and founder of Windsor Dermatology. “We want to be part of the solution.”
Besides working with Eden, Windsor Dermatology is also involved in a host of other projects, including skin cancer screenings at local hospitals and businesses, volunteer lectures in local schools, Toys for Tots and fundraising for breast cancer, heart disease and psoriasis.
Kevin and Andrew work at Windsor Dermatology 10 hours each week, helping with a variety of tasks such as folding and mailing patient statements, assembling sample bags for upcoming events and helping to label and send out marketing materials.
“Everything Eden does is employment focused,” said Muhammad Siddiqu, manager of employment services at Eden. “We look to places like Windsor Dermatology that will not only employ the individuals we serve, but welcome them into the office community and help break down barriers that lie within the world of people with disabilities.”
Mr. Siddiqu said both Kevin and Andrew are thriving since joining Windsor Dermatology. Part of that has been due to having a consistent work schedule.
“Kevin and Andrew haven’t stopped communicating with their parents about how much they enjoy their new job as they begin the journey towards independence,” Mr. Siddiqu said. “Individuals with autism tend to prefer things to be routine, regimented and predictable so they have some foresight of what their day entails.”
About 125 Eden participants make up the employment-focused model, with about 80 percent of individuals in the programs working for a variety of local employers. Eden participants in the job program are supported by a community employment specialist, Siddiqu said.
“Our goal is to set them up for success,” Mr. Siddiqu said. “As our individuals take steps forward in their employment journey to independence, we begin to fade out as they grow socially and vocationally within the fabric of that work environment. We may not leave the picture all together, but our support may take on a different role.”
Windsor Dermatology has been providing patients throughout New Jersey with comprehensive medical dermatologic care for common skin conditions, such as acne, eczema, psoriasis and skin cancer, for 30 years. For more information, visit www.windsordermatology.com or call (609) 443-4500.
Eden Autism is a nationally recognized leader in improving the lives of children and adults with autism spectrum disorder. Founded in 1975, Eden was among the first providers in the U.S. to address the need for services across the lifespan, from the point of diagnosis through adulthood. For more information, visit: www.edenautism.org or call 609-987-0099.