Transitioning into a work environment is no simple task. For young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder, it can be unreasonably challenging to find and keep meaningful employment.
The Learning Academy at the University of South Florida lessens this burden through education and by connecting students to resources in the community. The Learning Academy is also home to inspirational instructors such as Megan Fitzpatrick. With Megan’s guidance, young adults learn to fit into the classroom, community and workplace.
“My students teach me that the world is full of possibilities. Anyone that faces a fear or barrier head on to reach their goal is an inspiration.”
At the beginning of each academic year, Megan’s lessons focus on self-discovery. Students uncover answers to questions such as, “Who am I, and what am I good at?” Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders tend to struggle with social relationships, so classes revolve around developing effective people skills. Topics include building relationships, self-awareness and conflict resolution.
“Achieving a Better Life Experience – that is my motto,” Megan says. “I haven’t been able to put that in words before.”
Megan helps each of her students define what “achieving a better life experience” looks like in their personal lives. For many, this involves building confidence, seeking purposeful direction and, ultimately, life transformation.
With a Master’s degree in social work, Megan’s preferred methods of engagement are hands-on interactive group discussion and activities. “I have had to adapt to bring out different strengths,” she says. Megan builds her curriculum around the most helpful learning style for each group, which changes every year.
Upon graduation, students are equipped with the knowledge and skills to be an excellent job candidate. Megan beamed with pride as she discussed the most recent graduation ceremony. The group had full support from families, friends and mentors in the community.
“My students are like everybody else. I look for what unites us, and celebrate what makes us different,” she says. ABLE United is honored to highlight disability instructor and advocate, Megan Fitzpatrick, as our latest Face of ABLE.