In​ 2018, HDS Companies (HDS) spearheaded an autism-focused employment initiative, ASDY-Tech (Autism Spectrum Disorder Youth-Tech). Inspired by our CEO, Cristina Miranda Gilson, who has an autistic daughter, the program focuses on work abilities, team-building projects, and skills assessment. It provides opportunities for young adults to work in the Affordable Housing and Community Development Tech Industry.

At HDS, we embrace diversity and inclusion. We launched this initiative to create meaningful employment opportunities. We hired young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who graduated with industry certifications from The Dan Marino Foundation’s Marino Campus. Once we established the program, we found a need within our eHousingPlus Business Division. And, for the last two years, the ASDY-Tech team has been working on the implementation of eHP Digital Docs, our new state-of-the-art Compliance File Delivery and Deficiencies Portal. More than just a digital file repository, the new eHP Digital Docs portal is a workflow system focused on bringing transparency and efficiency to the program and Compliance Administration.

Social interaction, communication, and working as part of a team can be challenging for people with ASD. In today’s job climate, companies looking to hire talent for tech-industry related jobs are finding that those with ASD have a unique set of skills. They are extremely detail-oriented, highly analytical, and can focus firmly on the tasks at hand, making them an integral part of any team. Through the ASDY-Tech program, we helped leverage the natural skill sets this group of emerging workers possesses and provided them with opportunities and tools to learn and acquire additional technical, organization, and creative skills. Here, were share the experience from one of the ASDY members. 

On a typical day, twenty-five-year-old City of Weston resident Miguel walks through the doors at HDS with a big smile on his face. He heads to the ASDY-Tech office, greeting his co-workers while he gets his workday started. His daily workload consists of prepping, scanning, and shredding files.

Like many other young adults with ASD, Miguel felt a big change happening in his life during his transition from Cypress Bay High School to a post-secondary program. Throughout his transition, Miguel received supports from his parents and family members, as well as from Vocational Rehabilitation. He attended a post-secondary program offered by The Dan Marino Foundation, earning an Internet Core Competency Certification. After graduating from Marino Campus, Miguel’s first job was at a local law firm, where he scanned legal documents creating digital records. He then worked as a Camp Counselor and to this day, holds a part-time job at the Nautica store in the Sawgrass Mills Mall.

Miguel has had to learn to overcome social challenges, like improving on making eye contact, and adapting to the changing landscape of the workplace. He shares that taking the initiative, focusing on the tasks at hand, being confident, and completing his projects on-time are his biggest strengths. When he is not at work, Miguel enjoys reading books, watching movies, and walking outdoors. His advice to the students getting ready to graduate from high school is, stay calm and look forward to the next chapter of possibilities coming to your life. As for Miguel, he is embracing new opportunities and is headed back to school.

The impact of the ASDY-Tech employment initiative has strengthened HDS’ commitment to our products and services, improved morale, and heightened our overall productivity. We are already planning the second phase of our program. We have begun meeting with community leaders such as the local Public Defender and his team to asses collaboration opportunities and take ASDY-Tech to the NextGen.