Evanston Non-Profit Organization Helps Those With Autism Transition To Independence

CHICAGO (CBS) – April is Autism Awareness Month.

Eighty percent of adults with autism are unemployed, but at CBS 2’s Sandra Torres reports, there is one advocacy group making a big difference for those looking for jobs.

Eight years ago, 29-year-old Nestor Gonzalez dreamed of having a place of his own.

“To live independently outside of both parents’ supervision,” Gonzalez said.

He was diagnosed with autism at the age of five.

Gonzalez said his biggest challenge after high school was the sense of acceptance.

“The stigma on certain people is that just because you have a disability they had hard time being accepted into the community,” Gonzalez said.

But then he joined the Center for Independent Futures, a non-profit organization in Evanston that helps individuals with disabilities transition to independence.

“They might need support in life skills – cooking, shopping, paying bills –initially learning a lot of those skills, maintaining them,” said Ann Sickon, CIF Executive Director.

From jobs to housing, the group focuses on young adults between the ages of 18 to 22.

“Initially much of the focus is on diagnosis, but there is also the point that diagnosis does not matter anymore, what matters is what gifts do they have, how do they have a full life,” Sickon said.

That is what Nestor was able to achieve. He now works at a grocery store, lives on his own and even mentors others.

“Not only do I mentor for this program, I mentor for Best Buddies to show them anybody who can put their mind to it, can achieve anything they put their mind to,” Gonzalez said.

The group has been around for 15 years. They are not just helping individuals with disabilities in Evanston; they are now serving communities nationwide.

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