Many individuals with ASD often face unique challenges when they transition to becoming working adults. A May 2017 report published by Drexel University’s Autism Institute found an unemployment rate of a staggering 86 percent among adults with autism who had received state developmental disabilities services. While awareness of this condition is on the rise and money flows into research for its prevention and treatment, little consideration is being given to adults working with autism. According to a report published in 2017 by the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, only two percent of autism funding is allocated.
As a parent of a child with ASD, you can make a difference by putting a concentrated effort into helping your child prepare for full-time employment. By understanding the problem associated with the job search, identifying individual struggles, developing a strategy and seeking services, you can drive change and help your child find gainful employment when the time comes.
Why Are Unemployment Rates So High For Individuals With ASD?
When getting started, it’s important to consider why unemployment rates are so high for people working with autism. Why are they finding it to be so difficult? For many people, the main issues are:
- An inability to complete an interview. It’s hard enough to go through the process without having a disability but when a person has autism that directly impacts their ability to communicate, this can significantly hinder an ability to demonstrate why they’d be a great fit for the job.
- Lack of proper accommodations in the workspace.
- Trying to work with the stigma of having ASD.
- Inability for employers or colleagues to understand a disability such as autism.
Children diagnosed with autism are usually not going to absorb the social, organizational, communication and living skills they need through routine classroom instruction. Instead, these skills will have to come from direct instruction and demonstration.
The earlier you target your child’s struggles and seek solutions to lessen their impact, the better chances they’ll have finding success working with autism down the road.
Understanding The Skills ASD Individuals Usually Lack
Individuals with ASD usually lack certain skills that often create a barrier to finding or maintaining employment. If they share their autism diagnosis, they risk having to deal with trying to work with the stigma that is usually attached.
If they don’t share their autism diagnosis, people usually pick up on the differences anyway and, as a result, may keep their distance or treat them unfairly. Skills individuals with ASD usually struggle with that keep them from finding a job include:
- Communication skills.
- Social skills.
- Sensory issues associated with sight, sound and smell.
By understanding the skills ASD individuals tend to lack that are preventatives to finding employment, you can help your child bolster the skills they need or help them to develop workaround strategies. At Lexington Services, we understand the challenges people with autism face and have developed many programs to help children transition to becoming working adults.
How Your Child With ASD Can Start Preparing For The Job Search Now
Despite it being illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities, when it comes to hiring, it can be difficult knowing what to disclose and when. In our experience, if you teach your child the foundational skills early on to help build upon as they grow, they can add more building blocks along the way, heightening their chances for success. For instance, you can coach them on:
- Good presentation, including clothing choices, proper hygiene and an overall neat appearance.
- Using tools to help with time management and organization.
- How to communicate in a method that they are capable.
- How to advocate for themselves. For instance, show them ways they can request reasonable accommodations from their employers to help them to succeed and even excel in their jobs.
These are the types of skills your child won’t gain through a presence in school but are still very much needed to succeed. Other things you can do include:
- Signing your child up for classes to help teach life skills (i.e. cooking, social skills or other programs that could help support your child’s specific struggles).
- Encouraging your child to do volunteer work. This allows for the ability to prepare for the “real world” of working through hands-on experience. As a bonus, doing volunteer tasks not only helps your child but others in need too. This can be a good lesson in itself when preparing for adulthood.
- Look at employment training programs. Just be sure the programs are appropriate for your child – some programs will pair clients up wherever a need is present, however, if the position is in a high stimulation environment and your child has sensory issues, the training may do more harm than good.
- Identify the unique characteristics of jobs your child may prevail in such as low hierarchy, low-stress, low variability and less human contact.
- Define work in a way that suits your child, don’t guide your child with ASD towards a path that sets the table for failure. People with disabilities sometimes need to work outside the proverbial box. Employment for your child may mean doing shorter work days or pursuing entrepreneurship.
- Finding a job coach for your child before they enter the workforce. This can be a person your child can develop a relationship with when preparing to start working with autism.
- Point your child towards college degree programs or technical schools that will show them to use their strengths.
- Determine ahead of time which jobs are good or bad for people working with autism.
We suggest you start experimenting with elements of the workplace now to help you to identify weaknesses, bolster strengths and develop a good strategy for when the time comes for your child to enter the workforce.
Need help? Call Lexington Services today with any questions or concerns. We understand the difficulties associated with the transition from childhood to adult, and we can help you identify the best solutions to help prepare your child for this important milestone.
Contact us today to talk more about your child’s circumstances and the services we offer.
To read more like this, check out the previous blog post.