The information is taken from the employment tool kit, a free download available on the AutismSpeaks website. (autismspeaks.org) Other tool kits are available, also free, on this website. It is a site that I suggest all parents, caregivers, and children affected by special needs visits and explores thoroughly as they offer many resources.
What are Self -Advocacy Skills?
Self-advocacy is a life-long endeavor [and it is never too early – or late] to start cultivating self-awareness, self-monitoring, and deeper exploration of what it means to be autistic, by way of peer discussion groups. Self-advocacy differs from advocacy in that the individual with the disability self-assesses a situation or problem, and then speaks for his or her own needs. Learning how to do this takes practice and direct instruction. Too often, we raise our kids, treat our patients, and educate our students without ever speaking to them directly about autism. Perhaps we’ve made assumptions or even harbor fears that they aren’t capable of self-reflection. Yet if we deny kids our children this very important aspect of identity,
we limit their ability to become the successful adults we want them to be. As with any academic subject, teaching self-advocacy takes training as well as knowledge of and respect for the disability movement. Parents can model self-advocacy at home, teachers can offer curricula in school, and most importantly, peers on the autism spectrum can offer strategies for good living and share mutual experiences.
-Valerie Paradiz, Ph.D.
What job is right for you?
It is important to understand your strengths and interests when you are looking for a job. We all hope to find a job that we are very good at and that we can truly enjoy doing for a long time – our dream job! But being realistic is important, too. Sometimes we need to realize that what we are good at is not always something we can do as paid employment, or there may not be a job available that matches our top interests. That’s ok! A good approach is to list your personal strengths and interests, and then search the job market to see what positions are available that match up most closely with those ideals.
In addition to formal assessments, volunteering is a great way to learn about your interests and abilities prior to paid employment. There are many organizations that offer volunteer opportunities where you are not paid. Do not pass up a chance for work experience, as you will learn from all types of opportunities. Even learning that you do not enjoy a particular type of work is information that will lead you to the right career path in the future.
TIP: Always make sure that you get a recommendation letter from your supervisor when you have had a good work/volunteer experience. Update your resume with each work opportunity you have had so that it is always current. Don’t forget about work experience that you may have gotten while you were in school or during the summer. All work experience is important and could help you get that next job.
A paid or unpaid internship is another way for you to learn vocational skills and gain valuable work experience. An apprenticeship is a combination of on-the-job training in which workers learn the practical and theoretical aspects of a highly skilled occupation or trade from experts in the field. Apprenticeships can teach you skills for a trade that is in high demand in the job market. This may make it easier for you to find a job.
Some Jobs to Consider
A recent study has outlined jobs that individuals with ASD have successfully held after high school. This is by no means an exhaustive list of all of your options, but it could help you as you start thinking about which in- dustries are right for you:
· Skilled Crafts
· Food Service/Restaurant Management
· Education, Childcare and Home
There are many ways to look for a job, but only some have proved effective for adults on the autism spectrum. Most jobs are not publically advertised (80%, according to Cornell University’s Career Center). You may wonder, “Then how do I find out about job openings?” An important place to start is with your personal “network” – your family, friends, neighbors and other people who know you well.
The vast majority of job seekers find their jobs through a personal contact. However, for young adults with autism who already are faced with social and communication challenges, people often suggest that they seek their job by looking at job postings or responding to online openings. This approach is likely to fail not only because the impersonal approach is less successful for most people, but also because young adults with autism like you may benefit from a personal connection or the willingness of a friend or a relative to accommodate your needs.
First, determine that kind of job and type of environment in which you would be most likely to succeed. Then, tell everyone you know – friends, relatives, neighbors, local store owners with whom you have a connection, members of your house of worship, members of clubs or associations to which you belong, or any other person who you know –
“I am good at ‘X’ (data entry, packing boxes, filing, scanning documents, etc.). I am a hard worker who will follow the rules and not spend a lot of time socializing. I always have a smile and am a joy to work with.”
Ask them, “Do you know anyone who owns a business or is responsible for hiring an entry-level position in which I could do ‘X’ in a ‘Y’ kind of environment (quiet, not direct customer contact, outdoors/indoors, etc.)? Could you please help me meet this person? I want to ask if they have an entry level job opening and see if they would be willing to talk to me about it.”
This tool kit is available for free on the following website, autismspeaks.org. Please visit this site for the full tool kit and all it has to offer. (which is a lot of useful tips and forms!)