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JobTIPS: Helping to Level the Playing Field for Individuals with Autism in the Workforce

April 28, 2011 4 comments

This is a blog post by Louise Buchholz Southern, M.Ed., BCBA., formal special educator and content director at do2learn.com.

Many people with autism spectrum disorders are fully capable of joining the workforce, living full and independent lives and being tax-contributing members of our communities. Yet the number employed is relatively low due to lack of access to information and supports that would result in gainful employment. JobTIPS is our attempt to help level the playing field.

As a former special educator at the secondary level, I spent so much time focusing on my students’ academic and social skills development that I had little time to track down or develop resources that supported their vocational needs. I was not alone.

A group of us – educators, clinicians, parents and advocates – banded together to see what resources were actually out there.  Unfortunately, what we found was very limited and not tailored to the special needs of individuals with autism. Many people reside in remote and underserved areas, where there is even less access to supports, combined with the fact that not all available resources and instructional strategies are of a high quality or consistency.

Many of these students are not going on to pursue post-secondary education options, but often graduate without the basic skills needed to find and maintain employment.

Understanding the “why”

A prospective job applicant like “James” is ill-equipped to follow his dream in the workplace. Getting along with co-workers is really hard for him. He gets tired of “adjusting to them” and often asks “why can’t they adjust to me?” James, like many young adults with autism we see every day, has trouble keeping jobs. Over the last 10 years he has been hired and fired repeatedly, seldom understanding why. For others, the challenge is simply getting hired.

Tough questions. Tough questions that we felt could be addressed by merging technology with our expertise in the field of autism. We broke down this web-based resource into four core parts – Determining Interests, Finding a Job, Getting a Job, and Keeping a Job.

We designed real-life, interactive exercises that not only deal with the practical skills of identifying jobs that match their strengths and filling out applications, but developing their understanding of, and response to, the important social nuances that underlie the workplace environment. To teach them the “whys” of social interactions that typically get in the way of their success.

Successful employment is a key to greater independence

Successful employment is a key to greater independence – healthier self-esteem and higher quality of life – for individuals with ASD.  JobTIPS aims to offer these young adults the right resources to help them optimize their potential and at a level where employers see and appreciate the unique skills and talents they have to offer. To find out more, visit www.do2Learn.com.

Autism Speaks has many employment-related resources for individuals with autism and their families. These include: Autism in the Workplace, Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism, and the Transition Tool Kit.

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