The Humanity of Robotics

By Nancy Salmon, Vice President of Corporate Communications

With more than 3.5 million Americans living with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Hacienda’s ASD Vocational Training Program gives its participants the opportunity to develop and strengthen their abilities by utilizing two modules: building personal/interpersonal skills and gaining hands-on work experience in a variety of work environments including foodservice, laundry, maintenance, reception, clerical, creative design, logistics, housekeeping, janitorial, and technology.

Recognizing the unique talents of the ASD trainees and their proclivity towards technology, Hacienda created the Technology Implementation Program (T.I.P.). Under the leadership of Helen Wade and the direction of Tom Burick the program has thrived and continues to push the boundaries of what young adults living with autism can achieve.

An invitation to present at the International RoboBusiness Conference in Santa Clara, California had been extended to Tom Burick, a former robotics entrepreneur. “RoboBusiness is the leading robotics conference and business development event for the global robotics industry.” The invitation brought opportunity and challenge. The opportunity to experience an event of this magnitude was thrilling but the reality of air travel, logistics, and expenses weighed heavily on the team. In the spirit of overcoming challenges, the team began fundraising and forged ahead with their plans.

Dan, father of TIP trainee Aidan, describes his experience, “I had the personal pleasure of attending the “RoboBusiness” Robotics conference with the men of the Hacienda TIP Program. I observed six men working as a Team! They, together had to navigate the difficulties of air travel, rental cars, hotels, restaurants and a trade show all while working through the unknown of ‘what-if’. I have personally been involved in mega trade show type events, and rarely do I see what I saw that week. I watched the TIP men as they supported each other using their individual strengths to support the needs of their peer’s weaknesses. Sharing rooms, being on-time, dressing for success as a team was spectacular! They had each other’s backs. No bickering, no finger pointing or blaming. Their attention to tasks and detail was pure focus. Clearly there were hours of prep for such an event. The implementation was smooth and beautiful!”

>> Read Dan’s full story

It seemed very fitting that the team would make its presentation on “The Humanity of Robotics” and showcase their achievements as proof that individuals living with autism have gifts and abilities to offer the world of tech.

Ryan Sorrells describing his experience at the conference said, “I didn’t really know what my expectations were going into the conference, but it was an unprecedented opportunity for me as an individual living with autism. I want people to know that we are far more than our diagnosis and are capable of an equal opportunity. We are asking employers to take a chance on us.” According to the Life Course Outcomes Research Program at A. J. Drexel Autism Institute, 42% of young adults on the spectrum never receive a paying job in their early 20’s, and Hacienda is hoping to help decrease that percentage.

A big thanks to RoboBusiness for their generosity in providing Hacienda’s tech team with an exhibit booth and complimentary conference fees. “With community partnerships and resources we can do more” says Tom Burick, TIP program manager and Job Coach. “Support from the local and national tech community is a force multiplier for us. We can continue to build dignity, empowerment, and opportunity for the young adults we support. In the end, this is about real technology jobs in the community at competitive wages.”

To learn more about our Vocational Training Program for young adults living with autism, contact:

Helen Wade
Director of Vocational/Day Program Services
(602) 243-4231 ext 138

Tom Burick
T.I.P. Program Manager/Job Coach

This page: Drew, Ryan,Jacob, Aidan, Garrett, Tommy (L-R); opposite page: Aidan and his father, Dan (top left); Nancy Salmon, Hacienda HealthCare VP of Corporate Communications, Aidan, Garrett, Drew, Tom Burick, Jacob, Helen Wade, Tommy, Dan, and Ryan (top right); the TIP Team at the event and at their booth.

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