Program at U of U helps those with autism learn drafting, 3D modeling

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Adults on the autism spectrum can have a tough time finding work, but a program at the University of Utah is stepping up to help.

"I have a daughter with autism, and so I really thought it was a good opportunity to kind of see what possibilities there are as these kids get older to find skills that they can use and hopefully gain employment,” said Alex Booth.

Booth is just one of many volunteers helping young people with autism learn drafting and 3D modeling using the computer program "Sketch Up".

"Well Sketch Up is just such a great program because the sky’s the limit, you can do anything, and it’s really fun to use, you know, it’s great for future careers,” said Mason Dimock, one of the students.

Organizers said this is especially important, as people on the autism spectrum have an 80 percent unemployment rate. The program not only teaches technical skills, but also helps students develop socially.

“I feel like this environment has been a really safe environment to explore social interactions and to work on problem solving with peers, and it's just been a really positive place because of everybody who works here and how well they understand the kids,” Denise Dimock, Mason’s mother, said.

Amy Wadsworth, an autism program consultant for Columbus Community Center, said the students often make inspiring progress.

“I don’t get it, honestly,” Wadsworth said. “They come in and learn it in just a few days, and they’re able to create these amazing things."

Booth agreed the results are often impressive.

"I’m still amazed, last year we showed one of the students a picture of the Hancock Building in Chicago, and he was able to model the whole thing, which nobody in my architecture class could do that,” Booth said.

The classes take place at the University of Utah. And, for anyone who may be hesitant to get involved, here's what one student wants you to know:

"Come on down, be nervous with the rest of us,” Dylan Lamb said. “You know you won’t be the only sore thumb.”