Recognizing the lack of vocational training programs and dire employment prospects for Autistic individuals, The Autism Higher Education Foundation (AHEF) launched the Paralegal Assistant Training “PLAT” Program in collaboration with the Massachusetts Probate & Family Courts. The focus of the PLAT program is on the cohort of Autistic students and other neurodivergent students who are unable to pass MCAS and receive a high school diploma. In partnership with a growing number of high schools in the Commonwealth, the PLAT program provides selected students with exposure to paralegal assistant vocational training in participating Courts. AHEF’s vision is to expand this program to all 14 counties of the Commonwealth. The PLAT program has been highlighted in the UMASS Medical School Shriver Center’s Massachusetts Healthy People 2020 Autism Roadmap.
PLAT PROGRAM DESCRIPTION:
The PLAT Program provides selected students in High School Postgrad/ transition programs with experience in a variety of skills as needed by the court in the following areas:
- Communication skills, confidentiality.
- Paralegal assistant skills start from the most basic to increasing degrees of complexity as the student demonstrates success and independence.
- Office supplies vocabulary.
- Skills such as shredding, scanning, copying, filing, organization and document management, redaction, data entry, word processing, billing, book-keeping support.
- PLAT program track is a “supplement” to the student’s school day and is not intended to replace an “academic track” but aims to be woven into the “fabric” of the student’s academics.
A. Student requirements:
- Diagnosis on the Autism Spectrum or related disability and enrolled in a high school or 766-day school that participates in the PLAT program.
- Minimum of 3rd-grade reading ability.
- For placement in a court internship, candidates must be selected by their school and screened by AHEF to meet program requirements.
B. School District Requirements:
- For court internships, School District must provide one-to-one support at all times and collect data on student’s skills, behavior, professionalism, and independence.
- For part-time employment with legal and business partners, the District must provide one-to-one support and data collection, which support may fade based on employer feedback and student’s success and independence.
- School District is responsible for transportation.
For further information on the PLAT Program, please contact:
Lisa Marie Noke-Kearney
Autism Higher Education Foundation
47 Pleasant Street
Dover, MA 02030
Email: Lisa Marie Noke-Kearney
The Autism Higher Education Foundation has partnered with numerous school districts across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as well as with selected Massachusetts Probate & Family Courts, District Courts, Superior Courts, and the Massachusetts Court of Appeals.