Since autism is a spectrum disorder and people have varying skill levels, the future is not the same for all people with autism. A lot of children who are able to cope with mainstream school /college education go undiagnosed and are successful at jobs but may be considered quiet or reserved adults by their family, friends and colleagues. But, employment does not come easily to those who have been labeled as “autistic”. That is why School For Autism Blog wants to share the aspects of getting a job with autism spectrum disorder.
Several adults on the spectrum who have been diagnosed, and been in a supportive environment in their childhood, have written books that have facilitated and enhanced the understanding of the condition. We have examples of people who are professionally very successful. Some have gone on to become famous authors and at least one has won a Nobel Prize. Some advocate and speak for themselves and for other people with autism in the community.
Some of those who are fully independent in their everyday life may find it difficult to sustain the demands of a job and work environment. Some are married and some choose not to.
As with every other condition, some people on the spectrum will always need support in life and may never be fully independent. In India, there are few schools which have an environment or the attitude to accommodate the special needs of people on the autism spectrum. Vocational centers and employment opportunities are even fewer.
For most parents struggling with getting services for their child with autism, one of the biggest worry is ‘what after us?’ As yet, there are not enough and appropriate lifespan services for people with autism where they can lead a life of dignity and respect.
However, with support from people around them including the family, friends, neighbours and teachers all of them can lead a happy and meaningful life.
THE CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES OF GETTING A JOB WITH AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER
Thorkil Sonne, the founder of Specialisterne– a Denmark-based global technology company that trains high functioning people with ASD for placement in the corporate sector– tells that although people spend a significant part of their lives working, there has been little investment in providing services for adults with ASD that help them transition from school to the workplace.
“For many employers, there’s a stigma about hiring people with disabilities,” says Ami Taubenfeld, executive director of Itineris, a Baltimore non-profit working to provide employment opportunities to adults with ASD. “We are trying to change this mentality, slowly but surely, by educating them as to the unique gifts and benefits that our clients can bring to the workplace.”
The benefits to employers, as many advocates like Taubenfeld and Sonne say, are the strengths that those with ASD bring to their work.
“Generally, they have good memory, they have attention to detail, they are good at pattern recognition, they are good at structured work. They are really nice to work with because they are so open and honest and loyal to get the job done,” Sonne says.
TRANSITIONING FROM SCHOOL TO WORK
A lack of awareness of employment resources, a lack of planning by the individuals combined with discrimination against those with disabilities are factors that prevent adults with ASD from having sustained and successful careers.
They need to be experiencing the workplace early on and understanding the difference between work and school. The routines, the responsibilities and expectations are going to be very different. The daily schedule is different, the performance expectations are different, the level of personal responsibility is different. This can throw some people off.
Those in high school should talk to people working in careers that interest them, visit organizations involved in that area of work, and gain experience through volunteer or part-time work.
HANDLING THE JOB SEARCH
Potential employers can be trained to provide an appropriate setting for the interview and change its format so that individuals with ASD are more comfortable.
Associated with the interview process is the related problem of communicating their potential to do the work, especially if they have not done similar jobs in the past. It takes a lot for an employer to look past the communication and experience issues and take a chance on whether the person can do the job well or not.
There are a number of organizations that have made an effort to include adults with ASD and other disabilities, such as Walgreens and AMC Theatres. They do so by taking the needs of those with disabilities into account during the recruitment process and also on the job, once the candidate is hired.
AMC Theatres, for example, has replaced its traditional job interview with one that may be better-suited to people on the spectrum. During the interview, the manager takes the applicant on a walking tour of a theatre so that they can experience the sensory environment in different parts of the building (quiet versus loud areas, dimly- and brightly -lit sections, etc.). The applicant then has the opportunity to talk about the physical space they would prefer to work in. And instead of traditional abstract interview questions like, “What would you do if you found $20?” , the interviewer asks concrete questions such as, “If we show you how to hand in money you find here, would you be willing to do that?”
With an improved interviewing strategy, getting a job with autism spectrum disorder becomes so much easier. This is because autistic adults are able to show their capabilities.
Even after finding a job, people on the spectrum may not get the support that they need. Adults with ASD need concrete instructions about their tasks from their managers.
Organizations are also taking measures to provide on-the-job supports. For example, Walgreens employees are given visual instructions and have the option to take short breaks from work when they feel stressed. Other companies, such as Lowe’s Procter & Gamble and Best Buy, are now starting to model these practices.
Do you want to share a story or experience about getting a job with autism spectrum disorder? Get published on School For Autism Blog today!
Want to read more articles by School For Autism Blog around getting a job with autism spectrum disorder?
- Inclusive Education for People with Autism
- Real World Experiences of People With Disabilities
- Companies That Hire Autistic Adults