My name is Ronit Molko, Ph.D., BCBA-D. There's a frenzy of investment activity in the autism services sector of the behavioural health industry. Why now? Ask me Anything.

Ronit Molko, Ph.D., BCBA-D
Aug 9, 2018

How can investment in this growing industry serve to generate financial returns as well as advance autism services? And what's the impact on society if we don't do better?

My work has spanned almost three decades dedicated to providing and enhancing services for individuals on the autism spectrum and their families. After co-founding and scaling one of the largest autism service providers in CA, I sold my company to a private equity-backed strategic buyer. I now consult to service providers and advise investors on the autism market, and conduct diligence on specific companies targeted for acquisition by investors. My experience both as a clinician and as a businesswoman growing a large company serves to inform this market and interested investors. 

With autism affecting 1 in 59 individuals, the autism services market is growing rapidly to meet the demand for services. Not all services are generating meaningful outcomes and many providers lack the ability to grow to meet the increasing need. Investors can advance the quality and availability of services. 

I am passionate about ensuring that investment and services for this population make a meaningful difference in the lives of individuals with autism and that the professionals and investors who serve this population generate meaningful employment and business success.

Check out my website, book and social media for more information: 

https://ronitmolko.com/blog/

https://www.empoweringsynergy.com/

https://twitter.com/RonitMolko        

https://www.amazon.com/Autism-Matters-Empowering-Investors-providers/dp/1946633550/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1533069210&sr=8-1&keywords=ronit+molko

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Are you seeing any interest from the private equity firms in increased investment in the autism service industry?
Aug 11, 4:39PM EDT0

Great topic! Do you know of any digital services that help autistic people? 

Aug 11, 1:01PM EDT0
What is the role of the private capital in helping the businesses?
Aug 11, 11:28AM EDT0
Are there any interesting startups offering services for people in the spectrum that you'd recommend right now? What are the reasons for your answer?
Aug 11, 9:16AM EDT0
In a previous answer, you said that there are many well-known individuals who have built hugely successful companies who are on the autism spectrum. Could you please name them?
Aug 11, 7:12AM EDT0
What does the Autism healthcare business landscape look like? Who will provide autism service; local, government, private organizations or mix?
Aug 11, 4:37AM EDT0
What is your advice to people trying to increase the neurodiversity of their business? How can the job interviews be made better for people in the ASD?
Aug 10, 7:43PM EDT0
Are the interested firms focused in the healthcare service industry or in autism or other disabilities service?
Aug 10, 10:11AM EDT0
Can autistic individuals hold executive positions? Would they make great CEOs? What are the facts that support your answer?
Aug 9, 7:18PM EDT0

Some can- it depends on how severely their autism impacts their daily functioning. There are many well-known individuals who have built hugely succesful companies who are on the autism spectrum. 

Aug 10, 1:35AM EDT0

I am excited to have this conversation and answer your questions about advancing autism services

Aug 9, 5:04PM EDT0
What are the main challenges of increasing the neurodiversity of the workplace?
Aug 9, 12:25AM EDT0

There are a couple of main challenges. First, individuals with autism, for example, will have a difficult time with the typical employment interview process which often prevents them from finding employment in the first place.

If this hurdle is succesfully overcome, performing well in an environment that is not accommodating to the needs of the individual makes productivity and sustained employment challenging. 

Employers and the general public needs more education and awareness about neurodiverse individuals and how to best communicate with them and support them in work environments. 

Mentors can be helpful to coach and support the individual as well as accommodations such as headphones for noice management and altered lighting for sensory sensitivies. 

Aug 9, 4:59PM EDT0
Besides their great eye for detail, what other aspects of the people in the ASD can be valuable in a business?
Aug 8, 10:11PM EDT0

Inidividuals with autism often prefer actvities that are consistent and repetitive in nature, enabling them to perform tasks such as coding data or working with spreadsheets or working on assembly lines very succesfully. In addition, they are loyal, hardworking, consistent and committed to performing well. 

Aug 9, 5:03PM EDT0
How do big companies increasing the neurodiversity of their workforce make sure that the environment is safe for the autistic and non-autistic employees? Are non-autistic employees trained in how to deal with autistic individuals?
Aug 8, 10:03AM EDT0

This is a new area of focus. Employers need to both accommodate for the needs of autistic individuals and train their other employees to understand the characteristics and needs of autistic staff members. This is a newer and growing area as businesses are becoming aware of the contribution that autistic individuals can make to their businesses and the need for providing fulfilling employment for all, across the spectrum of neurological functioning. 

Last edited @ Aug 8, 6:05PM EDT.
Aug 8, 6:05PM EDT0
Which segment of the ASD is the most neglected by the services industry? Why is it so difficult to address the full spectrum?
Aug 8, 7:45AM EDT0

Autistic individuals with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety have a difficult time accessing appropriate services. 

In addition, there are fewer supports and services for adults. Much of the service market is geared towards children. 

Twenyty years ago there were much less recognition of adults with autism and their needs. As the numbers icnrease, sociaety and service providers are becoming more aware of the needs. 

Aug 8, 6:03PM EDT0

Which segment of the ASD is the most neglected by the services industry?

Aug 7, 11:28PM EDT0

Autistic individuals with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety have a difficult time accessing appropriate services. 

In addition, there are fewer supports and services for adults. Much of the service market is geared towards children. 

Aug 7, 11:54PM EDT0
What is Neurodiversity?
Aug 7, 9:19PM EDT0

Neurodiversity is an approach that states that neurological differences such as autism and ADHD are the result of normal, natural variations in the human genome. So a neurodiverse approach would look at all individuals as falling somewhere along a neurodevelopmental spectrum , as opposed to considering some people "typical" and others as having pathology such as a developmental disorder. 

Neurodiversity takes the approach that people do not need to "cured"; they need accommodations and supports to function better in society. 

Aug 7, 11:52PM EDT0
In relation to autism, what is the services industry focused on right now? How should it expand in the next 5 years?
Aug 6, 6:36PM EDT0

The industry is largely focused on addressing the needs of children through adolescence. Most of the funding provides for services during these years.

I think there are two areas of focus:

1. Innovating programs for children to help them gain more of the skills they will need as adults

2. Provide more supports and serivces for adults trying to manage in society. 

Aug 6, 8:20PM EDT0
What are the main challenges faced by businesses trying to offer services for autistic people?
Aug 6, 6:05PM EDT0

There are many and I discuss this in my book. Some examples are high level of staff turnover, fraud in the industry, addressing the needs of all individuals comprehensively, propviding consistent work hours for staff. 

Aug 6, 8:19PM EDT0
Which companies do you recommend that provide services for autistic children?
Aug 6, 3:39AM EDT0

Hi Ella! I do not make general recommendations as it's really important to identify the needs of each individual with autism and match them to the company that addresses those needs the best. There are different service modela and programs so making a general recommendation would not be best for the optimal outcomes. 

Aug 6, 8:17PM EDT0
What are the needs of autistic adults that have not been explored by the services industry?
Aug 5, 8:34PM EDT0

There are many! Supports and skills to work at jobs (whether indepdendently or with support and mentoring); skills to live as independently as possible, and skills to relate to others and form deep relationships. Many companies are starting to fcus on these services but much more is needed.

In addition, many adults with autism experience anxiety and depression and have trouble finding support as the typical model for addressing mental health issues does not take into account the needs of individuals with autism. 

Aug 6, 8:16PM EDT0
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