I read a study not too long ago that suggests eighty percent of adults that have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder are unemployed. I’m not sure of how accurate this is, but I do know one thing for certain: employment is a major issue for these adults.
There are many challenges adults on the Autism Spectrum have in regards to employment. I think it starts with the expectations for each individual adult. One of the first answers I want to know from each adult in regards to this topic is if the individual would most likely get overwhelmed by full-time employment. If the answer is possibly yes, then I think we have to explore the option, at least at the current time, that full-time employment isn’t for that individual. Sure, the individual may not make as much money or have the option to receive benefits with part-time employment. However, success at work can be built and the individual may be a lot happier.
Once we have determined the question of full vs part time employment, then we should look at obtaining employment. Does the individuals interests match their skill set? Take for example an adult who enjoys playing video games and who is quite good at this activity. Can the adult obtain employment based on this interest? Maybe, but probably not. Then we need to look at the skills the individual has and try to pair this with their interest, if at all possible. If we can, then motivation should increase for the individual a and I believe that person will have a greater chance to succeed at work.
Then lets look at the resume. Does the adult have a resume? If so, what type of resume does the individual have (chronological, functional, targeted, etc) ? We will review this document to determine if it is appropriate for the job the individual is looking to seek employment. When that is completed we need to talk to the individual about disclosing his or her disability. Autism in many cases is an invisible disability for at least the high-functioning adults. Therefore, when they meet a perspective employer, it may be unknown by this person that the individual they are interviewing has a disability. This can be very damaging to the adult with Autism if they are hired or in the interview process. If problems arise at work and the employer knew that the individual had a disability this could go a long way to resolving those issues.
Now that is the utopian way of looking at disclosing the disability. The reality is that in many situations it does more harm than good. I have heard on several circumstances that those that disclosed their disability were “just making excuses” or were looked down upon for having the disability. We can’t just look at the individual on the Autism Spectrum, but have to do a better job of educating employers and human resource departments throughout the business community. If they have a better understanding of what Autism is, then disclosure of one’s disability will become a much more realistic option. That is where the services of Autism Personal Coach or a good job coach comes into play. The coach is the bridge between the Autistic adult and the employer. Peter Gerhardt, an expert in the field of job coaches for adults on the spectrum, has said that if you put the right person in the right environment with the right supports it is a beautiful thing. That isn’t easy to do, but we can make that happen. It is just about customizing employment for each individual.
There is so much more that can be said on the topic of employment for those with Aspergers and Autism that one blog post is simply not enough. If you would like to like to discuss this topic further leave a comment or send an email to email@example.com. We will discuss independent living skills in the next blog.