Dr Josh Levine

Hello Dr. Josh, 

Please share a bit about your work with children with Autism.

My work with children with autism spans 20 years. Currently, I’m the Clinical Director at the #1 School for Children with Autism in Florida, The Sonder Academy. We complete everything for the child, from assessment to intervention, and follow-up to ensure progress in made. The school is a perfect combination of academics and Applied Behavior Analysis. Children also receive Speech, Occupational Therapy, and Physical Therapy; along with art, music, play, and physical education. 

In my 20 years’ experience, I noticed a growing need to move from working with children to helping to bring relief to parents. I currently provide free webinars through my Facebook group, Dr. Josh’s PowerParent Group. In the webinars, parents receive simple, step-by-step, proven tools to help their child learn, grow, and prosper.

Tell us more about Autism and the form of disability that it falls under? 

Autism is a neurobiological condition. So, it’s important to note that there will be issues with how the brain communicates with itself and the rest of the body. Thus, the challenges can be numerous; from not reading social cues, to repetitive thoughts and behaviors. First thoughts are sensory issues, communication challenges, and anti-social behavior.  

Most of my families I work with have a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder. However, I also enjoy working with kids having other diagnosis. Regardless of diagnosis, what matters are the goals parents want for their child. My job is to ensure I coach parents on the simple, step-by-step, proven tools so they can help their child achieve their dreams.

Is it a developmental disability or a learning disability? 

Autism is mainly known as a developmental disability.

What are some of the key challenges that adults with autism face in navigating through daily life? 

Once we work with a child, we help them overcome some of the initial challenges as mentioned above. We now have an adult diagnosed with autism who can communicate very well, has learned coping mechanisms for sensory issues, and does not have behavior challenges. 

The largest challenge, however, for any adult, in this case, is anything that impedes that person from reaching their goals. For example, I worked with a 19-year-old named James who’s goal was to work at the campus bookstore. However, James did not have the social skills to answer questions from staff, or even speak with his colleagues at the store. In other words, social skills and being able to answer customer questions was impeding James from reaching his goal of working at the campus bookstore. I used 3 simple, step-by-step, proven tools to help James overcome these challenges; modeling, role-play, and generalization. Overall, the goal is to find out what the persons goals are, what is currently impeding those goals, and then how to best overcome those challenges.

In your opinion, do you think people with autism can be employed within organizations? If yes, what kind of jobs and roles do you think will be most suited for them? 


Autistic adults are, in general, very dependable, routinized, focused, detail-oriented, and show deep passion for their work. Many adults have fantastic technical and/or math skills, some that even elude their neuro-typical colleagues!

Here are a few companies that are currently targeting to hire individuals with autism:

·     Microsoft: Autism Hiring Program

·     SAP: Autism at Work Program

·     Freddie Mac: Partnered with Autism Self Advocacy Network

·     Walgreens: REDI (Retail Employees with Disabilities)

What are some of the difficulties of working with persons with autism? And some of the benefits in hiring them? 

Some difficulties could include an unwillingness to change quickly, lack of some social skills, and potential rigidity in thinking. 

Some benefits could include dependability detail orientation. Another unique one could be the in-depth knowledge they may possess about a certain subject; being quite single minded in their interest, people with autism can build a very deep knowledge about a subject, making them an asset indeed. 

What are some key aspects for organizations to keep in mind while hiring persons with autism? 

Communication challenges is definitely one area for an organization to keep in mind. This can happen with staff who are neuro-typical as well. However, individuals with autism may find it extra difficult to understand body language and facial expressions, and this can sometimes hinder communication.

Repetitive Behaviors will play a role for an individual with autism in an organization. People with autism often see the world a bit differently, and thus may enjoy the security of familiarity and routine. For an organization, this can be a positive trait!

Socialization deficits will play a role with how individuals with autism behave in the presence of others. For example, if a person with autism is unsure about something that may have occurred in the workplace, they may retreat within themselves and get overly quiet.

What kind of an eco-system should be provided | created, to enable that they are able to live a life of dignity? 

Companies should begin Diversity and Inclusion training in their workspace. This type of program would help organizations be mindful of the special environmental arrangements that are needed for a person with autism to lead his or her working life with dignity and respect. 

Along the same lines, having peer mentors would be helpful as an extra emotional cushion of support. The mentor can also be helpful in enabling the individual with autism to learn the hard skill sets needed to be successful at a job. Thus, having a peer mentor system would provide some extra cushion with the learning of both soft and hard skill sets for an individual with autism. 


What will be your advise for team leads and team members to interact with their autistic colleagues? 

·     Keep an open mind

·     Take time to learn about autism

·     Ask lots of questions

·     Read books that are first-person perspectives on autism (e.g., Ido in Autismland)

How can a corporate create an autism-friendly work environment?

            The work environment may need adhere to a design that is more appropriate for individuals with autism having sensory issues, or other needed help with executive functioning skills. Here’s a few bullet points to consider for office spaces:

·     Assigned workstation or office or work area

·     Work area away from noise, traffic, visual distraction, & food 

·     Paired with mentor when appropriate

·     Clear visual instructions

·     Lighting well controlled for glare, color rendering, and intensity Exposure to natural lighting with controls

·     Storage for personal items and electronics

·     White noise in area that is programmable, softer or louder 

·      Access to a gym or exercise room

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