Unemployment Among Those With Autism Is 90%. Here's How a Denver CEO Is Working to Change That

Danny Combs was living the good life. He hung out with first-rate country music super stars like Taylor Swift as well as Faith Hill in Nashville, Tennessee, in the very early 2000s. He was doing what he loved for a living: playing and teaching music.

Then life got much better with a family, spouse, little girl as well as a boy named Dylan.

After that, modification.

At age 2, Dylan revealed delays in speech and also social advancement-- indications of autism. Examinations at Vanderbilt University validated Autism Spectrum Disorder.

" When Dylan was diagnosed, I truthfully struggled for some time," claimed Combs, who did a deep dive to discover all he could around autism and how he could assist his son. "I read all the statistics as well, it was frightening."

One stat that echoed in Combs' mind: Unemployment for those with ASD was about 90%, according to advocacy team Autism Speaks. And a university degree only drops down that number to 85%.

" The idea of my boy having a 90% chance of not working was not alright to me," he told Denver Company Journal.

Combs' following step was a literal one, from Nashville to Denver in 2013.

" I needed an adjustment … to be in a location that was more outfitted for individuals with autism." he said.

He was also tired of hearing what was wrong with Dylan.

" No person was acknowledging him for what he could do," Combs said.

To a father, seeing his boy's strengths was simple: "He can develop and also make these amazing things from cardboard. He was able to imagine these abstract three-dimensional objects prior to him saying, 'Hello, Dad.'".

It made good sense that Dylan was good with his hands. The Combs family tree is filled with four generations of tradespeople in aerospace as well as construction.

“I grew up working on cars, building homes and always fixing things,” Combs said. “I started doing with Dylan what my dad and grandparents did with me — building things; and he loved it.”

Then it struck him: Why not start a trade school for those with ASD? Give others the opportunity for that good life they might not or else have the ability to gain access to?

" I started searching for something comparable. I couldn't discover anything," Combs said.

In 2016, Combs released a GoFundMe project to start the Denver-based not-for-profit called Instructing the Autism Area Trades (elegant as "Tact"), the only program of its kind in the country training auto mechanics, carpenters, computer science, welding, electronics, as well as other hands-on abilities.

To day, Tact has offered 530 pupils with 50-plus regional organisations employing pupils at $14 an hour or more. Tact's work positioning rate is 86%, which isn't unusual when you consider that trainees from the program took top place, two times, in current vehicle remediation competitions-- and the judges didn't recognize the trainees had ASD.

“We let the quality of work stand on its own,” Combs said. “Most groups try to get someone hired because of their disability. To us, that’s backwards. Their talent gets them their job, not their disability.”

Combs said those with ASD often tend to be information oriented, concentrated as well as have high retention rates.

“Employers now have a group that’s on-task, on-time, does a great job and that they only have to train once,” Combs said.

An additional benefit: Tact increases trainee self-confidence.

“They recognize they’re a part of something that’s giving them a future,” Combs said. “For the first time, we’re telling them they can do it and we’re letting them — we’re helping them — get there rather than holding them back. It’s incredible.”

As a result of great interest from around the country, Combs is speaking with attorneys about franchising. Actually, Tact's first associate will likely open this summer season in Florida. And also its future right here in Denver must remain in great hands.

" Dylan told me when he gets older, he intends to run Tact," Combs stated.

Danny Combs.

Title: Owner and also Chief Executive Officer.

Company: Educating the Autism Area Trades (TACT).

Site: buildwithtact.org.

Very first job: "I was an umpire for youth soccer. I was 14 and also my parents would drop me off at the football area in the early morning and pick me up at the end of the day. This was all [before] cell phones. I'm old, so if it drizzled or video games were cancelled, I was stuck there throughout the day. At 15 I worked at Taco Bell. I do not really like thinking about that though.".

Article originally published by Denver Business Journal.

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