Member Spotlight – Meristem

Nearly 1 in 59 children today have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD),
according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate has grown precipitously
since tracking started nearly two decades ago, meaning this growing population will continue to
play an increasingly important role in our society as they progress in life. As a result, only six out
of every 100 young adults with ASD have any form of competitive employment in California.

We can, and must, do better. Meristem, a school where young adults on the autism spectrum
develop practical life skills to help them transition to work and independence, is working hard
to fill the gap. Thanks to several area partners throughout the Sacramento community, we’ve
helped place many of our students in key positions of need for employers that are designed to
help the students and companies thrive. One of our most successful partnerships is Eskaton,
the largest nonprofit serving seniors for 50 years in the Greater Sacramento area. Their team
has helped integrate our students into the workplace alongside their residents to enhance
exercise sessions, assist with receptionist duties, and strengthen their gardening efforts.

We’ve already built a tremendous foundation in our community, but we’re eager to continue
growing. As more members of the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce consider
their hiring needs, we’d welcome hearing from them to discuss what paid jobs and volunteer
opportunities might be well-suited for our Meristem students.

Our three-year residential and day program, launched in the fall of 2015, just graduated its first class this spring. Meristem’s techniques help students overcome the spatial challenges that
often accompany an autism diagnosis and help students build a supportive peer community,
promoting self-confidence in their abilities.

While we’re proud of the program and the transformative effect it has had on our students, we
recognize that this is only half of the equation. In order to continue our goal of decreasing the
unemployment and underemployment rates of ASD adults, a better understanding from
employers about how these individuals can best fit inside the workplace is required. With this
knowledge, we can help unlock and maximize the potential of this talented population that we
know will be a valuable addition to your organizations.

If you have ideas for how to integrate Meristem students into your workplace, please contact
Shannon Shields, development executive, at or (916) 963-1000, to discuss
them in greater detail.