Marketwired News Release – July 14, 2016

“It helped me, and it might help you!”

An enthusiastic sentiment shared when a participant was asked about their recent experience in the EmploymentWorks Canada program. “It helped me, and it might help you! It helped me get over my anxiety, and introduced me to new skills, new people and different job opportunities. It was amazing and really fun.”

The EmploymentWorks Canada program is part of a unique, federally funded national initiative designed to improve the employment futures of youth and young adults living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The initiative known as Worktopia is sponsored by The Sinneave Family Foundation and Autism Speaks Canada, and offers three employment preparedness training programs focused on improving employment readiness and enhancing the employment skills of individuals with ASD between the ages of 15 to 29 as they transition from high school to independent adulthood. Twelve partner organizations have been engaged to deliver EmploymentWorks Canada, CommunityWorks Canada® and SchoolWorks Canada in seven provinces across the country. These include:

  • Pacific Autism Family Centre, Richmond, BC
  • Abilities Centre, Whitby, ON
  • Canucks Autism Network, Vancouver, BC
  • Kerry’s Place Autism Services, Aurora, ON
  • Centre for Autism Services Alberta, Edmonton, AB
  • Geneva Centre for Autism, Toronto, ON
  • The Ability Hub, Calgary, AB
  • See Things My Way Centre for Innovation, Montreal, QC
  • Calgary Board of Education, Calgary, AB
  • Autism Nova Scotia, Halifax, NS
  • Saskatchewan Abilities Council, Saskatoon, SK
  • Autism Society of Newfoundland & Labrador, St. John’s, NL

“We are very excited to be working together with these exceptional partner organizations to develop and offer programs that have the potential for meaningful and positive impacts on the lives of individuals with ASD and their families,” says Tanya McLeod, President of The Sinneave Family Foundation.

“As a national organization, we are grateful to be part of a program addressing a critical need in the autism community. Through collective impact, the capacity for individuals to thrive within their community has increased.

Worktopia demonstrates the ability to support individuals, families and communities across the country through a collaborative approach,” says Jill Farber, Executive Director of Autism Speaks Canada.

ASD is currently the most commonly diagnosed neurological disorder in children, and these children will eventually become adults in need of employment. Adults with ASD have the poorest employment outcomes in comparison to others with disabilities, and they are frequently unemployed or underemployed following high school. In the 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability, 83% of adult respondents with ASD reported having no employment income. The aim of Worktopia programs is to create opportunities for individuals with ASD to explore their job interests and abilities in a variety of community and workplace settings, while developing the skills necessary to attain and retain future employment leading to greater economic independence and an improved quality of life. At the same time, Worktopia also aims to positively influence community and employer awareness regarding the capabilities and value that individuals with ASD bring to the workplace, thereby improving labour market participation and capacity, and creating greater social inclusion opportunities for individuals with ASD.

Funding for the Worktopia programs has been provided in part by the Government of Canada’s Opportunities Fund for Persons with Disabilities Program with a commitment of $11.4 million over 4 years to support the implementation and evaluation of the programs across Canada. “The Government of Canada is committed to providing Canadians with disabilities access to the skills and training they need to connect with available jobs. Projects like Worktopia provide increased opportunities for employment while increasing employer awareness about the valuable contribution persons with disabilities make to the workforce.” – The Honorable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities

For more information about Worktopia and the programs currently being offered, please visit

Tanya McLeod, President                                          Jill Farber, Executive Director




Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders caused by a combination of genes and environmental influences. These disorders are characterized in varying degrees by communication difficulties, social and behavioural challenges and repetitive behaviours. ASD is currently the most commonly diagnosed neurological disorder in children (1 in 68). Adults with ASD have the poorest employment outcomes in comparison to others with disabilities, and are frequently unemployed or underemployed following high school. Programs and initiatives that enable skills development, foster community awareness and promote inclusive hiring practices are helping to create employment opportunities for more than 500,000 Canadians with disabilities, including those with ASD.


CommunityWorks Canada® is a peer supported after school pre-employment program for teens and young adults ages 15-21 with ASD, who are currently attending high school. Participants will have the opportunity to develop and practice basic job skills, improve social and communication skills, acquire community volunteer experience and cultivate potential areas of interest for future employment.

EmploymentWorks Canada offers employment preparedness training for individuals ages 15-29 with ASD, who are no longer attending school and are seeking opportunities to practice and develop the essential skills necessary to obtain meaningful and sustainable paid employment. It is a peer/co-worker supported program that uses adult learning principals to focus on s
kills development in a variety of real workplace settings.

SchoolWorks Canada offers social and vocational skills development to youth ages 15-21 with ASD, who are currently enrolled in high school. It compliments existing school curriculum by adding elements unique to the learning needs of individuals with ASD, and is designed to improve academic motivation and achievement, increase social inclusion and enhance skills development through peer mentorship. The program also provides supported community work experiences to help prepare participants for the transition to adulthood and future employment.


The Sinneave Family Foundation is a national organization dedicated to building successful futures for adolescents and adults living with ASD. Established in 2008, the Foundation has quickly become recognized by leading autism service and research organizations across North America as a valued partner in programming and research that improves the lives of individuals with ASD. The Foundation has over $100M endowment under investment, and uses the return on these investments to fund its ongoing activities. 


Autism Speaks, along with Autism Speaks Canada, is the world’s leading autism science organization. Together with Autism Speaks, we have invested over $200 million to scientific research, $9 million in Canada. Since 2010, Autism Speaks Canada has granted over $4 million to service organizations across Canada promoting collaboration, best practices and building capacity to support individuals and families living ASD. Autism Speaks Canada is committed to supporting research and services across the country; raising public awareness to encourage inclusion; and collaborating with other organizations to speak alongside the autism community.

Christy Robinson, Communications Lead
1-403-210-5000 x2038

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