One of the biggest challenges for many Autistic adults is employment. When we typically think of getting a job it usually is for some type of work that earns us money. However, those of us that are helping this population gain employment need to start looking differently at this issue. Lets start looking more closely at work that Autistic adults don’t get paid for that could eventually lead to employment. What I’m referring to is volunteerism. This is as important as paid work, giving an individual just as many benefits, minus the paycheck.
It’s tough enough for anyone to get a job in the current economy. Therefore, it could be several months or longer for those neurotypical or not to obtain employment.Volunteer work is a great way to show employers that you show initiative. It shows them that you may be unemployed, but your still being a productive member of society.
Another advantage of volunteer work is that is a great way to network. I’ve had multiple Autistic adults tell me they have gained employment by the relationships they have built at volunteer organizations. They didn’t necessarily get hired at the place they volunteered. However, people they worked with/for helped get them paid work at a business.
Volunteering is also a great way to develop employment skills. Many Autistic adults flourish in the academic environment, but when they entire the work environment they struggle. Working in a volunteer role gives them an opportunity to learn the expectations of what this environment would be like. It can be really helpful to let them know what work skills they are proficient at and which ones they need to improve.
There is also a very important social component to volunteerism. Its’s no secret that an area that Autistic adults struggle with is developing friendships. Work is a place that is one of the most common places that adults meet new friends. When the majority of Autistic adults aren’t working it cuts off a very important path for these relationships to develop. If we can get more of our adults to volunteer a bi-product of this work could be that they will make an extra friend or two. This along with all of the other benefits of volunteer work could have an extremely positive impact on their lives.
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