AIM students visit NYC

Rebecca Dunphy, Copy editor

In 2018, The AIM Program and Spectrum Design collaborated on the documentary called “This Business of Autism.” This October, students were given the opportunity to witness “this business” firsthand during a trip to New York. From Oct. 2 to 5, seven AIM students, Assistant Director of AIM, Brad McGarry and Career Path Coordinator, Kolleen Sullivan explored the Big Apple, visiting three different companies to learn about how they empower people with autism to find success and meaningful jobs in the workforce.

The first company they visited was Bloomberg, an organization that specializes in finance assistance, software data and media. After this was a special opportunity with the United Nations.

“My favorite part was visiting the United Nations,” junior Political Science major Ben VanHook said. “It was very fitting for my major and I was able to engage with the representatives. I was able to apply my knowledge from my Poli Sci classes when answering their questions, and I was able to communicate effectively.”

The last location on the itinerary was Spectrum Designs, where the group had the opportunity to meet some of the people featured in the film. They were also provided with a tour of the company’s three businesses: t-shirt printing, laundry and homemade granola bars.

“My favorite company that we visited was definitely Spectrum Design because I got to see the entire operation and how they employ people on the spectrum to work within this company,” junior Hospitality Management major June Durkee said. “This really touched me the most because it gave me a wonderful visual representation of how certain work environments are implementing support systems that can benefit people like me who live with some form of autism.”

Students learned much more than what services the companies offered during their trip. “We additionally learned many social skills in New York by taking public transportation and learning to navigate the city through various maps,” VanHook said.

Students saw some classic New York landmarks including Broadway and Times Square. Durkee said the experiences she had while in New York will stay with her throughout her life.

“The most important lesson I gained from this vocational experience revolved around not feeling worried or scared to speak up for yourself when working in a big company,” Durkee said.

“I found that very vital, especially if you happen to work in a company that incorporates supportive programs, like having extra mentors guide you to succeed within the workforce.

This was very well depicted when visiting Bloomberg and Spectrum Design where they provide additional services for employees who have autism, and this can be done by sharing a mentor, having a safe working environment, or the most important to me, being true and speaking up for yourself by explaining to coworkers that you identify with having autism.”