Overview of Interests
Dr. Stassun serves as Director of the Frist Center for Autism & Innovation, which represents a collaboration of Vanderbilt engineers, scientists, disabilities researchers, and business scholars, together with major employers in Nashville and leading autism-related organizations nationally.The Frist Center is devoted to: (i) developing a strengths-based — as opposed to deficit-based — understanding of neuro-diverse capabilities; (ii) modeling of novel employment arrangements, management trainings, and workplace practices that fully utilize these capabilities to spur innovation; (iii) inventing new technologies that enable autistic and other neuro-diverse individuals to succeed in employment and achieve their full potential; and (iv) documenting and disseminating an all-hands community-based approach — including educators, researchers, employers, philanthropists, and community organizers — to enhance quality of life for autistic individuals through meaningful employment. VCAI serves as the core academic research partner for a community-based partnership that we call “the Nashville Model.” The Frist Center's ultimate purpose is to advance workforce innovation through the employment of autistic adults, with the Nashville Model as our testbed. Initial research and development components include developing a new battery of specialized assessments for identifying autistic capabilities and assistive technologies to support autistic individuals in the workplace, working with employment partners to connect autistic individuals with appropriately matched job opportunities, measuring the business impact that the “autism advantage” truly represents, and developing with our partners the Nashville Model — a scalable and replicable community-based approach to employment that includes management/leadership training to adapt to people on the spectrum.
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