How Mentorship & Creativity Help Neurodiverse People Find Fulfilling Jobs

Unemployment have been holding steady at 3.7% across the country. This environment has led to many employers to think outside of the box to get their positions filled. Some have even gone to a first come, first serve hiring. This rosy picture has been tainted a bit lately with the fact income levels have not been keeping pace.

The economic boom has put millions of people back to work and economists are now saying that we are now at or close to full employment. Full employment simply means that everyone who wants a job can have a job working for a fair wage.  However, given this full employment situation, there are some people who still find it hard to find work, such as those with neurodiversity and other disabilities. The unemployment rate for people with autism sits at 85%, with 35% of those 18 years old going to college.

One organization is trying to change that  by tapping into some of the strengths that individuals with neurodiversity often  possess. Islands of Brilliance was born when Mark and Margaret Fairbanks received news that their son  Harry had been diagnosed with autism when he was 3 years old.  Neurologists just came out to them very blunt and said to lower their expectations.

As their son Harry got older, they watched how he had peak interest in particular subject areas as well as staying engaged on that subject matter. As they continued to watch their son flourish, they developed a model for learning that pairs mentors in creative fields with young people who have been diagnosed with neurodiversity.  Thus, Islands of Brilliance had been born.

Mark Fairbanks had said that there have been tremendous benefits for both young people with neurodiversity and the mentors themselves.  “I think our volunteers learn,” he says. “We select them for empathy and patience  — but it builds more of those skills that then spill back over into their place of work. [That’s] hugely valuable to the community. And I’ve heard this from different leaders at agencies and corporate departments that that’s the case.”

To learn more about Islands of Brilliance, visit their website at 


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