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‘Help is on the way’: How an empty Rock Hill property could reshape autism services

Ex-Knights general manager to offer job training for autistic adults in York Co.

Tim Newman, founder of Adult Spectrum Transitions, will open a 3-acre job training and placement center in Rock Hill for adults with autism. Newman, a former general manager for the Charlotte Knights and father of two adult sons with autism, said
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Tim Newman, founder of Adult Spectrum Transitions, will open a 3-acre job training and placement center in Rock Hill for adults with autism. Newman, a former general manager for the Charlotte Knights and father of two adult sons with autism, said

He estimates there are 2,000 young adults in York County on the autism spectrum — young adults who might encounter a life-changing opportunity with his latest venture — but Tim Newman would do it all for just two.

Their names are David and William.

“I have twin 21-year-old sons with autism, and found firsthand the challenges and surprises that await parents when the children age out of public services,” said Newman, co-founder of Adult Spectrum Transitions. “It’s a unique qualification.”

A Rock Hill board approved a zoning change last week. Architects are coming in Thursday. Adult Spectrum should be up and running out of the former state transportation site on Camden Avenue by April or May. The idea is to have young adults with autism come in, get assessed and begin training for jobs.

“Success for us will be 12 to 15 folks working here on-site by the summer, and then being able to start placing folks,” Newman said.

The site lends itself to training in the automotive industry, plus other options.

“Logistics, tech jobs, office processing jobs, and other jobs where they may have a specific skill,” Newman said.

Newman, a former general manager for Charlotte Knights when they still played in York County, has a resume of executive positions in real estate, tourism, marketing and finance. He led the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority for nearly a decade. But Adult Spectrum is more than a business. It’s personal.

“There’s good news,” Newman said. “There’s hope with what we’re doing. We want folks to know that help is on the way.”

Focused on their future

Federal funding for services runs through age 21. Schools often perform a variety of functions for children with autism.

“This is very much dependent on each student and his or her identified needs,” said Bryan Dillon, spokesperson for Clover school district, which in recent years won several accolades for its work with students with special needs. “Services range from a small amount of specialized instruction each day up to almost a full day, again, depending on the student’s needs.”

In the Clover district, there were 665 students with special needs, 68 with autism, as of October.

“Once a student reaches age 13, per state law, we start to address post-secondary transition, which may include employment, further schooling or functional independent living,” Dillon said.

Newman is focused on what comes next and services to address not one but three main issues: unemployment at about 90 percent, most adults with autism living with parents and few who are able to drive.

“There’s nothing like this in the area,” Newman said. “The need and the timing are coming together to make this happen.”

Included is a ride share program, a partnership with an apartment complex across the street. There are plenty of market jobs nearby on Cherry Road; Even Winthrop University is within sight. Newman is talking with officials there about partnering with future special needs teachers.

Life-changing business

The new site will have four full-time employees, including a former worker with special needs students in the Fort Mill school district and the creator of a firm recruiting autistic workers to major companies. With people coming on to train and the trainees themselves, Newman expects up to 30 people on-site by summer.

The group aims to hire out 600 workers within three years, at jobs of $30,000 a year or more.

Newman expects plenty of interest in Rock Hill, Fort Mill and the surrounding area to keep his group busy initially. They would like to eventually expand into Charlotte.

“It’s a spectrum, and each individual is different,” Newman said. “It’s a challenge, but once we have the model right, we’ll be able to extend to other forms of varying needs.”

We want to demonstrate that folks with autism have great skill sets and can be contributing members of society, and have an independent life.

Tim Newman, co-founder of Adult Spectrum Transitions

Amy Cowman met Newman when both worked in Charlotte. Cowman said she knows him as a “brilliant businessman.” Now she’s in charge of communications for Adult Spectrum.

“I realized the magnitude of it and the opportunity, and I got excited,” Cowman said. “The possibilities are endless for the difference we can make here.”

While Adult Spectrum Transitions will help families who can see their children live independently, perhaps for the first time, it could also help a community to look at autism a little differently.

“We want to demonstrate that folks with autism have great skill sets and can be contributing members of society, and have an independent life,” Newman said.

Want to know more?

For more about Adult Spectrum Transitions and its plan to serve young adults with autism, visit adultspectrumtransitions.org.

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