The last general type of daily activities for adults with autism represented on the continuum consists of what is considered center-based. Center-based activities are congregate in nature in that an agency serves groups of people with disabilities together in one or more buildings, often separated into classroom-type arrangements. The attending adults spend most if not all their time segregated from the rest of society and consequently have minimal or no integration as described previously. There are two general types of activities provided in center- based programs: work and nonwork.
Center-Based Work Activities
The most common type of paid work in center-based activities is sheltered work as discussed earlier. A number of center-based programs offer some sheltered, contract work for at least some of their attendees. For the most part though, sheltered work represents a minority of all ongoing activities in center-based programs (with the exception of sheltered workshops which in essence represent center-based programs for providing sheltered employment). Whatever sheltered work is provided has the benefits and shortcomings noted earlier with sheltered workshops.
Some center-based programs also provide a type of supported work to some degree. Specifically, attendees are paid to perform a service for the agency that operates the center. Common examples include working in the center cafeteria or food service department, janitorial work within the agency, and some clerical work (e.g., stuffing letters in envelopes for mass mailings). This type of employment is characterized by the advantages and disadvantages of supported work as also described previously. Regarding the advantages, the work represents a real job because it is the same type of job that at least some paid staff within the agency perform. In terms of disadvantages, this type of supported work involves much less integration within society relative to supported jobs referred to earlier because all the work occurs in a center that serves only people with disabilities (i.e., the center population is not characteristic of the general societal population).
An additional type of paid work offered in some center-based programs involves adults with autism making products for sale, often in the form of arts and crafts. The products are then sold through the agency or local vendors and the workers are paid from the sales. This retail type work is very similar to contract work that occurs in sheltered workshops, and consequently shares the benefits and limitations of sheltered work. Additionally, center-based retail work (and supported work in centers) frequently involves only a portion of the center’s attendees and is part-time in nature.