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Teens with autism must be encouraged to start thinking about future careers and employment. However, this decision is an important one, and must be made wisely. Various people, including the person with autism, his family, as well as service providers, must be involved in the process of career planning. People with autism struggle with different issues, and will not be able to enjoy or do well in all jobs.
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The interests of the person with autism must be considered while planning for a future career. Most people with autism have specific, arrow interests. A job that incorporates these interests will be enjoyable for them. They will also be able to contribute to such a job in a way that others may not be able to. Thus, it is essential to see if there are any jobs or careers where the person with autism can use his knowledge and skills in the area that he is interested in.
Adults with autism also have their own dreams and plans. It is important to ask them what they want to do, and help them achieve their dreams.
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All jobs require ongoing learning. In some jobs, learning is constant, whereas in others, it may be required once in a while. Some jobs require verbal learning, while some require visual learning, or learning from text. Others require hands-on learning. It is important to assess the client’s learning style and ability. This must be kept in mind while planning for a job. If a client has difficulty with text based learning, and the job requires a lot of that, he will not be able to do it. Also, if the client has difficulty in picking up new skills and the job requires constant learning, the client will get frustrated. All of these aspects must be considered while planning a job.
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For most people with autism, the demands of the environment are the biggest struggle. Here are some of the demands that a person with autism may face at work, that need to be considered while planning a job.
Social demands: Some jobs are more demanding socially than others. While some jobs require a client to just follow instructions and report when their task is over, others require constant communication, or even initiating conversations. As clients with autism struggle with social skills and relationships, they do best at jobs where the social demands are minimal. People with autism usually do not cope well with jobs like sales.
Communication demands: Clients with autism have different ways of communication. Some may do much better with written communication, and some do well with illustrated instructions. The method of a client’s communication must be kept in mind while planning a career. A waiter’s job requires the client to be able to listen to orders and bring them to the table. A client who has difficulty in understanding verbal instructions will not be able to do such a job.
Sensory: Some clients with autism have specific sensory issues. They may not tolerate bright lights, or loud noises. This must be kept in mind whole planning a career for a person with autism. There is no point in training a client with autism to be a cameraman’s assistant when he cannot tolerate lights. Thus, such details must be thought through well in advance.
Other work demands: People with autism usually find it difficult to be flexible. They prefer a regular schedule and routine. Thus, they may not do well in jobs that require a lot of travel, or change in plans. Similarly, the client with autism may have other characteristics that need to be kept in mind while planning a career.
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Clients with autism are not intellectually impaired. This must be kept in mind while planning jobs. In the right job, and the right environment, people with autism will be able to reach their best ability. Some of the greatest scientists, thinkers and artists have been people with autism. Thus, supporting a person with autism to function at his best must be the aim of career planning.
Once a career has been decided on, the family and service providers can work on helping a client develop skills that will be required at the workplace. Ongoing support and follow up is essential to ensure successful employment for people with autism.
If you have more suggestions to add to this list feel free to leave them in the Comments section below.
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Alan Kurtz, M. J. (2008). Supporting Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Quality Employment Practices. The Institute Brief , 1-9.
Scott Standifer, P. (2009). Employment supports for adults with autism spectrum disorders. Missouri: University of Missouri.