Volunteering Opportunities for People With ASD
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 we can make new friends. 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.
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. These orgs are ideal since they already have autism awareness to some degree. For sporting 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, 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. There is a potential worry many parents of ASD children have of viral shedding from frequent vaccination of the elderly that can last 3 weeks, which our immunocompromised kids may not be able to medically tolerate. Ask the center or agency about their vaccination policies before agreeing to volunteering opportunities with the elderly.
There are opportunities in school such as Autism Youth Ambassadors or you can create programs in your school for Peer Mentoring like Lunch Buddies, where kids with ASD are matched up with peers to sit with at lunch, talk, play games and make friends. Talk to the school guidance counselor for in-school opportunities.
Churches always need volunteers. If standard opportunities are full, think about turning some of their lawn into community garden. If the church will lend out its kitchen to teach skills like canning, cooking, and basic nutrition, etc. to then your teen could help the families. Maybe even 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.