Easter Seals Wants You to Enter its 2011 Sketch-A-Space Contest

Oct 12, 2011, 06:00 ET from Easter Seals

Competition uses Google SketchUp Software to Build More Employment Opportunities for People Living with Autism during October's National Disability Employment Awareness Month

CHICAGO, Oct. 12, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- To highlight this October's National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Easter Seals today launches its second annual Sketch-A-Space contest, supported by Google SketchUp. It's an online design competition meant to draw attention to the employment needs of individuals with autism. As one of the nation's largest providers of autism services, Easter Seals is calling for entrants to use the free Google SketchUp software to design a space that represents their dream job, career interests or plans for future employment.

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"Easter Seals' Sketch-A-Space contest aims to raise autism awareness and increase community understanding that individuals with autism can be successful in the working world when they have access to the supports they need and find the right job match," says Tom Wyman, manager of business development, Google. "We hope it will encourage employers to consider individuals with autism and other disabilities and provide an avenue for creative expression."

Sketch Your Space Today
The Sketch-A-Space competition offers an opportunity for people with autism – as well as those interested in autism – to win $3,000 and improve their resume and employment portfolio. Google's 3D modeling software, SketchUp, is very popular among people with autism, many of whom are visually and spatially gifted and especially adept at creating 3D models. Capitalizing on strengths with SketchUp is one way to make meaningful employment a reality for people with autism and other disabilities.

Entries can be submitted at www.easterseals.com/sketchaspace between October 12, 2011, and December 15, 2011. A panel of judges – consisting of three accomplished professionals with significant expertise in architecture and design, as well as last year's Sketch-a-Space winner, JP Saikali, a college student living with autism – will determine the top three entries. Then in January 2012, Easter Seals will feature the top three submissions online and ask the public to vote for their favorite entry and determine the grand prize Sketch-A-Space winner.

Examples of ideas to model include a work space, like a landscaper's garden; something you've designed at work or for a school project, like a game developer's storyline or set design for a concert; or a tool that will help you at work, like a firefighter's fire truck.

"It's exciting to partner with Google SketchUp again this year," says Patricia Wright, Ph.D., MPH, national director, autism services, Easter Seals. "Not only is it a wonderful tool for individuals with autism to express themselves and develop marketable employment skills, it's a great way for entrants to share their hopes and dreams for employment."

Google SketchUp and Employment
Employment is a rite of passage into adulthood. It opens up doors to a rich social life, promotes financial independence and provides a feeling of self-worth. Individuals with autism can be productive, working members of society when they find the right job match.  

Employment rates for individuals with autism are astonishingly low. It's estimated that approximately 10 percent of adults with autism are gainfully employed (Howlin et al., 2004; Seltzer et al., 2004), when in fact, individuals with disabilities have less turn-over and higher attendance than their typically developing colleagues.

"This doesn't mean that individuals with autism can't be employed; it simply means that society hasn't sorted out how to capitalize on the strengths of individuals with autism in the world of work," adds Wright.

Easter Seals Sketch-A-Space Competition and Google's Project Spectrum attempts to do just this – share with the world that highlighting the strengths of individuals with autism can result in gainful employment. To help do so, they've enlisted three leading experts in design and architecture to judge the entries and also provide a few professional tips to our contest participants:

  • Steve Gross is a theme park designer, award-winning film maker and SketchUp instructor who's worked on Universal Studios attractions like The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, King Kong, Transformers and Dora's World Adventure.
  • Daniel Tal is a landscape architect, author, speaker, owner of a modeling/animation company and software consultant.
  • Randy Wilkins is a set designer who's worked on many well-known films including "TRON: Legacy," "The Social Network," "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," and "Catch Me If You Can."

"Google SketchUp helps individuals express and reach out beyond themselves," said Tal. "The capacity to think and see in 3D and have an intrinsic perception of space, depth and dimension that some individuals with autism have is such a unique strength and it's cool to see how the SketchUp software and this contest can tap into that."

For more about Easter Seals' Sketch-A-Space contest, visit www.easterseals.com/sketchaspace.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month
Congress has designated each October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). The purpose of NDEAM is to raise awareness of employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. Sketch-A-Space is taking advantage of October to share information about the employment needs and contributions individuals with autism can make to the world of work. Because individuals with autism demonstrate visual-spatial strengths, learning to utilize tools such as Google SketchUp means employment in adulthood can become a reality for those living with autism and other disabilities.

About Easter Seals
Easter Seals is the leading non-profit provider of services for individuals with autism, developmental disabilities, physical disabilities and other special needs. For more than 90 years, we have been offering help and hope to children and adults living with disabilities, and to the families who love them. Through therapy, training, education and support services, Easter Seals creates life-changing solutions so that people with disabilities can live, learn, work and play. Support children and adults with disabilities at www.easterseals.com or www.actforautism.org.


SOURCE Easter Seals