Approximately one percent of the world’s population is diagnosed with Autism spectrum disorder. Diagnosis often means a lifetime of challenges for people with Autism as they have difficulty learning social skills and communicating with others. These challenges make it difficult for teenagers and adults to find jobs and contribute meaningfully within their communities. However, programs that build on the strengths of people with Autism are being developed. One example is the Israeli Army’s Roim Rachok Program, which offers teenagers with high functioning Autism a way to serve their country and develop valuable professional skills.
The Roim Rachok program utilizes the strengths that many people with Autism have, including the ability to focus and concentrate on singular tasks for long periods of time. These skills are particularly sought after by the Israeli Defense Forces when monitoring intelligence feeds and analyzing data. The program was piloted in 2012 and opened up new doors for Israeli citizens on the Autism spectrum to excel in a career path. Roim Rachok also offers a model for integrating people with Autism into society beyond military service. The program provides training on verbal communication and social interaction which are two skills that help participants integrate themselves into a regular role in society after their military service ends.
It is programs like Roim Rachok that show the world that people with developmental disabilities can contribute meaningfully and take up important roles in society. The key is to develop programs that utilize their strengths. When we match the tasks to the strengths and abilities of people with certain disorders we are building a world in which everyone can live up to their potential and create a more inclusive society.