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Celebrated Author Temple Grandin to Headline February Autism Society of Minnesota Event on Employing People with Disabilities

Corporate employment and human resources executives, service providers, parents and family of people with autism, and advocates expected to be among hundreds at Maplewood event sponsored by 3M, Cargill and Best Buy

Temple Grandin
Temple Grandin

Plans for a major conference on the employment of people with autism featuring celebrated author Temple Grandin have been announced by the Autism Society of Minnesota, which is organizing the event for Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011 at 3M Company's campus in Maplewood, Minn. Grandin has won a national following as knowledge has grown of her experience as a person with autism rising to become an authority on animal behavior, a college professor and a best-selling author. A recently aired HBO movie on her life received great reviews and seven Emmy Awards.

This presentation, which will focus on the issues involved in promoting opportunities for people with autism spectrum disorder, is sponsored by 3M Company, Best Buy and Cargill.  The mechanics of hiring, nurturing and retaining talented individuals with disabilities will also be covered.

"This conference will shed new light on the strategies and solutions involved in helping people with autism and other disabilities become accepted and contributing members of the nation's workforce—and the creative programs pioneered by some of our leading companies," said Sherrie Kenny, executive director and CEO of the Autism Society of Minnesota.

The conference, moderated by Linda Ireland, partner, Aveus, LLC, will offer presentations from three creative corporate managers who have been successful in attracting people with disabilities to their companies, and who have incorporated them into both their operations and their culture.  The presentations by Jay Carter, co-chair of 3M's Diversity Committee; Cindy Holker, vice president of web team, Best Buy, and Bill Buckner, senior vice president, Cargill, will address the steps to achieve positive results, and sustainable employment for individuals on the autism spectrum. Following will be the keynote address by Dr. Grandin, who urges employers to commit to the social responsibility of helping people with autism through this workforce crisis. She notes that one out of every 91 people has a diagnosis of autism.

For greater flexibility, the core elements of the conference will be presented twice, with the first presentation starting at 1:30 p.m. and the second at 7 p.m. in the evening. A special luncheon will be held prior to the first session and will feature moderated discussions on particular issues, with opportunities for attendees to raise questions and comment.

Dr. Barbara Luskin, a clinical psychologist recognized for her work with people with autism and their families, will be a resource at the luncheon and respond to the issues that are raised. Those attending the luncheon will receive autographed copies of Temple Grandin’s new book, "The Way I See It." 

A private dinner with Dr. Grandin will be held in advance of the evening presentation, offering a limited number of people the opportunity to talk with her about her experiences and hopes for the future.

The event, called "Autism and Employment – Finding Success," will have a resource center featuring books on autism and other disability topics, together with other materials.  The conference will be held at the Universe Room at 3M Company's Administrative Center. Further details will be available on the Autism Society of Minnesota website, ausm.org.

The Autism Society of Minnesota is mounting this event as part of an employment initiative of the Department of Employment and Economic Development's Vocational Rehabilitation Services and the Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities.

It is expected that the "Autism and Employment" event will become an annual affair, bringing together organizations and individuals focusing on employment strategies and techniques. It is anticipated that future years will see organizations, both private and public, that meet specific criteria receive "Employer of the Year" awards from the Autism Society of Minnesota.

Established in 1971, the Autism Society of Minnesota is an organization of families, educators, care givers and professionals dedicated to supporting individuals with autism spectrum disorders.

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