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New team serving autistic adults named semi-finalist in the Business For Good Competition


Kentucky Philanthropy Initiative President Joe Clabes, left, Opportunity for Work and Learning CEO David Boggs and Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education  Senior Policy Advisor Dr. Linda Linville make up WISE, a new organization in Lexington to serve adults with autism. (Photo provided)

Kentucky Philanthropy Initiative President Joe Clabes, left, Opportunity for Work and Learning CEO David Boggs and Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education Senior Policy Advisor Dr. Linda Linville make up WISE, a new organization in Lexington to serve adults with autism. (Photo provided)

 
WISE, a Lexington-based start-up social enterprise serving adults with autism, has announced that they have been selected among 160 entrants as one of 10 semi-finalists in the 2014 Business For Good Competition. This annual competition, held by the Social Enterprise Alliance, recognizes the best concepts utilizing traditional business models to sustain nonprofit missions.
 
The team behind WISE is David Boggs, CEO of Opportunity for Work and Learning; Dr. Linda Linville, senior policy advisor for the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education; and Joe Clabes, president of the Kentucky Philanthropy Initiative.
 
After hearing about the competition, they submitted the idea they had been discussing that would provide critical job placement for the growing number of adults with autism. If selected as one of three finalists, they make their case to a national audience of successful entrepreneurs, funders, policy makers and educators for the chance to win over $75,000 in prizes to support the WISE launch. The Social Enterprise 2014 National Summit will be held April 13-16 in Nashville, Tenn.
 
We thought we were addressing an increasing need with a sustainable approach, but we also knew the judges would be looking at some great ideas from around the country,” said Clabes. “Regardless of whether we advance further in the competition, it is an honor to be considered among the top 10. It really validates what we’re attempting to accomplish.”
 
The Center for Disease Control estimates that 1 in 88 children in America are diagnosed on the autism spectrum, which represents a 10-fold increase over the last 40 years.
 
According to the Autism Society of America, it is the fastest growing developmental disability. This increase is evident in communities like Lexington, which struggles to provide support to the underserved ASD population and their families.
 
“Despite the best efforts of the K-12 system, Kentucky families of children with disabilities must make accommodations everyday,” said Linville. “The problem is only compounded when these children reach adulthood and their ongoing need for support is forgotten. Nurturing these often exceptionally bright minds will assist with the many challenges these families face.”
 
Many adults with autism possess advanced technical training and marketable skills in valuable science, technology, engineering and math-related areas, but they lack the social interaction capabilities to be successful in a traditional work environment.
 
To remove these barriers to employment success, WISE will provide an independent living environment and an on-premises Life Coach to assist in their daily interactions. Residents will also be provided the necessary workplace accommodations, such as in-home remote work stations, to enable their integration into the workforce. By helping residents to take full advantage of their marketable skills, they can help offset the heavy financial and emotional strain on their family.
 
Boggs stressed the importance of identifying the right employment partners, “this is the key to establishing a sustainable program.”
 
“OWL has been sustaining its operation for 52 years through this type of approach to job development,” Boggs said. “OWL has learned a lot along the way. This experience and administrative support will serve WISE well.”
 
For more information about the Business for Good Competition, visit here.
 
From WISE


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