MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — All this week, WCCO-TV is highlighting local charities helping different causes across Minnesota.
It started Monday with Fraser School, an organization that has been leading the way in advancements in caring for people with Autism for since 1935. WCCO-TV’s Jason DeRusha and Nina Moini hosted an event last weekend in downtown Minneapolis to help raise money for the different programs Fraser offers.
The event featured powerful testimonials from parents of kids with Autism. It’s a conversation that has really only started to educate people in the last decade or so. Sometimes, people don’t talk as much about adults who are living with Autism.
There is such a great need there for jobs, and one local man exemplifies the need for more programs like the ones Fraser offers. David Ilko, an adult with Autism who recently graduated from Eastview High School, is in a transitional program offered by Fraser that helps him find work and lead an independent life.
“I think I’ve grown quite a bit,” Ilko said.
Like anyone fresh out of high school, Ilko is thinking big. He helps out here at his father’s family practice during the week for now, but hopes to go to college and have a full-time job.
“I’ve really just started to get into the working world,” Ilko said.
It’s a goal that Fraser School is helping him achieve, little by little.
David’s dad said his son was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome when he was 5 years old. He is on the high functioning end of the Autism spectrum, meaning he is smart and capable of working but struggles with social interactions.
“I think they’ve been amazing with him. Within the last couple years he’s gone from maybe a two-word answer to holding a conversation for two hours,” said his father, Dr. James Ilko.
“For the individuals that we’re concentrating on, the people with typical to higher IQs, you don’t qualify for a lot of other support services that are out there,” said Chris Bentley with the Fraser School. “So all of those things are just going to start escalating for them, and that increases family stress as well.”\
Bentley works closely with David and dozens of others at Fraser School, helping to chip away at an 80 percent unemployment rate for adults with Autism. They do it through building interview skills, job placement and networking with employers.
“Individuals with autism want to be independent. You just need to get them on right path,” Bentley said.
With a little help, David said any adult with Autism can find success.
“Don’t judge them by their label. Judge them by their character,” David said.