STAYING HOME AFTER AN AUTISM DIAGNOSIS
Raising any child is demanding, but one with autism often requires more time – time that can affect his parent’s ability to work outside the home. Someone must shuttle the child to doctors and therapies. There’s time spent at special education meetings and handling problems at school. Parents often learn and implement therapies at home. Day care providers may not be able to manage the challenging behaviors common to autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Mothers of children with disabilities often travel different career paths than other women. Compared to mothers of typically-developing children, the mothers of children with developmental disabilities were slower to re-enter the workforce full-time as their children got older. They had lower earnings at age 36. They also were nearly as likely to be working part-time as full-time when their child with a disability was a teenager.
Finding good, affordable child care – and appropriate services – are monumental tasks for parents of children with disabilities. “Therefore, many parents endure forced unemployment or reduce their work hours to care for their children, reducing their annual income.”
Families of children with autism have it worse, the article concludes, as those “parents are called on to serve as their child’s caregiver, case manager, and advocate” as they search for services and care.
One group of researchers compared parents of children with autism with parents whose children had different developmental disabilities, or had mental health conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Parents of children with ASD reported more problems getting services and care for their children than the other parent groups. They also were the most likely to stop working.
THE JOB-SEEKER WITH AUTISM
Young adults with autism face the biggest challenges to full-time participation in the world of work, despite special education and transition programs that are supposed to prepare them for life after high school.
In the first two years after leaving high school, young adults with autism were twice as likely to be “disconnected” – that is, they weren’t in college or working – than their peers with intellectual disability. They face low rates of employment, college enrollment, and independent living.
AUTISM AS A CAREER ASSET
Personal experience of autism can be helpful in other jobs.
Having autism can be an asset, especially for someone who works for a disability rights organization.
An autistic person’s ability to focus intensely on a special interest, for e.g. analysing the internal infrastructure of organizations – is helpful in the right workplace.
FINDING YOUR CALLING IN AUTISM
The sciences are often a good career choice for individuals with autism. Precise attention to detail and strict adherence to routine practices and procedures are critical to many science related fields. While the average person may find these aspects of the job difficult to adjust to, structured environments are often where the autistics are at their very best. From top scientists and researchers to lab technicians or assistants, many on the autism spectrum excel in the work of science.
A great many people with autism can be found among the most talented and successful computer programmers and software engineers. Working with computers can be an ideal career for individuals with autism, taking advantage of strengths geared towards order, complex systems, and mathematics. Also, working conditions common to computer technology fields can be well suited to the autistic, as employees often work in their own space, with just a computer for company, limiting the need for the social interaction that can be difficult for individuals with autism.
Journalism can be an area in which autistic individuals may find their niche. The best journalists must be able to set personal emotions and opinions aside when covering a story, reporting just the confirmed facts. Gathering such facts in an organized and unbiased manner can be second nature to many with autism.
The need for repetition is common in autism, making jobs that would seem tedious to many quite suitable, even comforting, to many employees with autism. For instance, manufacturing can be a good fit for individuals with these tendencies, especially assembly line work.
Working with Animals
Autistic people for whom social interaction is a major issue may find working with animals a comfortable employment field. Many who have difficulty interacting with people have no such issues with animals, making fine veterinarians or veterinarian’s assistants. Others find their place in the farming industry, tending to the needs of livestock, or working with a pet grooming establishment.
Vast Potential and Lost Opportunities
These are but a few examples of the many possible careers for people with autism. Since the autism spectrum encompasses individuals with a wide variety of levels of skill and function, no one career or employment field can be singled out as the best for the autistic to pursue. Individuals with Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism are quite likely to have many more options available to them than individuals affected with more severe forms of ASD.
However, large numbers of people at all points of the autism spectrum are very employable, making exceptionally skilled and dedicated employees, a fact that seems, as of yet, virtually lost on the business community. Hopefully, as the level of autism awareness increases, society will become informed enough to realize the potential currently being wasted as employers fail to provide autistic individuals opportunities to shine.
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