Volunteering Opportunities for People With ASD

November 22nd, 2015

Volunteering Opportunities for People With ASD

by Holly Bortfeld

Volunteering is essential for creating well-rounded adults. Volunteering not only teaches skills and keeps the volunteer engaged, but also benefits the larger community, spreads autism awareness, and can lead to new friendships. The following are just some examples of volunteering opportunities that may be of interest to young adults with ASD.

Volunteermatch.org has a great search engine for in-person and virtual volunteering opportunities based on zip code and area of interest.

Humane Society – The Humane Society has lesson plans to pre-teach skills and job descriptions for each type of volunteering opportunity from office work to working with the animals.

Food Pantries - http://www.feedingamerica.org/find-your-local-foodbank/ or http://www.foodpantries.org/
Some pantries have kitchens that serve food and some just compile bags for families. All have indoor office work available as well.

Community Gardens -
You can also do a web search for “Cooperative Extension” and your state to find a garden.

Any nonprofit (501c3) organization in your community may need help but organizations that serve individuals with autism such as horseback riding therapy, swimming classes, Special Olympics, summer and school break camps, Challenger baseball/soccer/basketball leagues (just to name a few) are ideal since they already understand autism to some degree. For sports teams, volunteers may take statistics, set up/clean up, help with snack sales, or buddy up with younger kids.

Organizations may also need data entry or graphic design help, help with mailings or office work, or on-site event help for fundraiser walks, conferences or seminars, and meetings, such as working at the event registration table, booth help, clean up and more.

Senior citizen residential or activity centers love to have volunteers. Some parents of ASD children worry about exposure to viral shedding from frequent vaccinations of the elderly. Shedding, which our immunocompromised kids may not be able to medically tolerate, can last three weeks. Ask the center or agency about their vaccination policies before agreeing to volunteer opportunities with the elderly.

Opportunities in schools such as Autism Youth Ambassadors or Best Buddies are good outlets for ASD students and typical peers. You can also create programs in your school for peer mentoring or lunch buddies, in which students with ASD are matched with peers to sit with at lunch, talk, play games and make friends. Talk to the school guidance counselor for in-school opportunities.

Meals on Wheels, community clean-up projects, the public library, sibling programs, and Ronald McDonald House are also good options to investigate.

Churches always need volunteers. If standard opportunities are not available, think about turning some of their lawn into a community garden. If the church will lend out its kitchen to teach skills like canning, cooking, and basic nutrition, your teen could help with the classes. Or you can set up a cooking class for teens with ASD.

Please note that for-profit companies cannot let minors volunteer without paying them, as that would be illegal.

Recommended Resources:
Developing LifeSkills: Chores
LifeSkills for Teens with ASD
Skills Checklist
WEBINAR SLIDES: How to get your kid with ASD into college
Transition IEPs

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Autism Journey Blueprints
Parent Mentor Program
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