Building an Early Intervention Employment Model

As parents, the long-term prospects for our children’s independence and employment is a primary concern. National data indicates that the vast majority of adults with autism are either unemployed or underemployed, with estimates ranging to as high as 90%. Islands of Brilliance (IOB) long-term strategy of building an Early Intervention Employment Model seeks to give young students as long a runway as possible to learn, practice and demonstrate the critical vocational and social skills they will need to be able to thrive in our communities.

IOB utilizes project-based learning, which allows our students to grow their intrinsic capabilities and practice communication, increasing their likelihood of independence as adults. IOB design workshops create a space for students to explore creativity through the use of technology, during which they learn technical skills and grow confidence in critical social and peer-to-peer interactions. Students are matched one-to-one with mentors—design field professionals—which not only changes public perception of this disability, it also paves the way for future higher education and employment opportunities. An experienced, licensed special education teacher, with paraprofessional support, oversees all workshops.

Workshop Model

Workshops are designed around our students strengths giving them every opportunity to have a happy, successful learning experience. Workshops are limited to eight students. Each student is matched 1 : 1 with a mentor—volunteers from the professional creative services industry. The majority of student projects are based on each student’s area of affinity, which leads to longer periods of focus and productive skills learning. Classes are led by an experienced Special Education teacher, with additional support staff such as a Creative Director, Art Buddy, and SPED Buddy. The experience also incorporates the opportunity for breaks including hands-on art activities and quiet down-time if needed.

Student/mentor teams work on MacBook Pro laptops with Adobe Creative Cloud installed. IOB also provides an iPad Pro and WACOM tablet for students who want to explore working with a stylus.

Workshop Objectives

Students will participate and be introduced to the following learning experiences, social interactions, and technical skill sets:

  • Open social sharing time at the beginning of each workshop
  • Idea and concept development
  • Problem solving
  • Collaboration
  • Sketching
  • Visual Research
  • Design and production using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator
  • Time Management
  • Project update sharing
  • Presentation Skills

Over the course of the five 75 minute workshops, student/mentor teams concept, sketch, design, and present their final poster. Posters are shipped to students via mail, generally arriving two weeks after completion of the workshop.


    Is my student a good fit for IoB?

The length and complexity of tasks in each workshop can vary. We ask that you please review the criteria provided during registration to ensure that your son/daughter is an appropriate candidate.

Example criteria for our 5 session Design Workshops. Students are expected to:

  1. Be able to sit for a minimum of 15 minutes and then return to work after a short break
  2. Show an interest in independently creating artwork outside of school
  3. Be able to work independent of Special Education support. (SPED supervision is provided, but 1 : 1 SPED support for extended periods of time is not available.)
  4. Be comfortable using a mouse (including clicking, dragging, etc.)
  5. Be able to access information—such as finding reference images—using a browser window

    The Word

“Islands of Brilliance has been a positive creative outlet and educational experience for my son, Jake. He’s been able to use the topics that he loves to think about and turn them into posters and projects to share with others. During the course of the session, Jake practiced appropriate social skills while working one-on-one with his mentor to learn to use image manipulation software. We have plans to enroll in IOB again and again!”

Jennifer Feiter

“Day one and Beck says ‘thank you so much…I had the time of my life.'”

Kelly Lawrence

“Islands of Brilliance was truly a magical and life changing experience for our son. It is the only Program after 14 years of his life where I’ve seen him excited, engaged and wanting to repeat. He loved it so much that literally in the car ride home on the last day, he begged me to return.”

Shaunna Balady

“What words can I say for a program that simply lights up my daughter’s life ? The staff set the standard in treatment and teaching of students on the spectrum…We love Islands of Brilliance!”

Christine Dzwierzynski