JOHNSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Social skills training programs for kids and adults on the autism spectrum are in high demand.
But one local organization is struggling to hire enough staff for the needs of their groups over the course of each week.
At The Autism Project in Johnston, children and teens on the autism spectrum are learning critical skills, while creating and communicating with their peers. The group is learning not only self-management techniques but also building conversation skills.
“I started as an instructor in the basketball group. Not only did they learn dribbling skills but they always learned toward developing other skills like building friendships and turn taking,” said Cathy Young with the Autism Project.
During the pandemic, the Autism Project had to pivot and send training bags home with families to help autistic individuals continue their social skills training safely.
Now two years later, they face a new challenge — finding enough staff.
The organization employs about six facilitators for these social classes and staff members told 12 News they need at least three to four more to fill the current need for the population they are working with.
“We have therapeutic experts, they work with people to help teach self-regulation at the basic level,” Children’s Programming Manager Carek Skurka said.
While the Autism Project professionals continue to put out the call for trained applicants, their fall classes are still underway. The families who are participating say they are still grateful for what their children and teens are learning and what they are gaining in return.
“It would be nice to be able to accommodate more of these kids so that we could help all levels of need,” Young said.
The organization is looking to hire social skills therapists, social workers and mental health professionals.