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Putting Out the 'Autistic Help Wanted' Sign

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Employment is a cornerstone in our life. It’s what gets us motivated and where we continue to build a work ethic. We can start our careers in fields where we feel our strengths would be recognized and we can build financial stability.

However, this isn’t always easy for everyone. This is especially true for those on the autism spectrum. Obtaining employment can be one of the hardest tasks for our population. According to a report done in May 2017 by the A. J. Drexel Autism Institute, only 14 percent of the of those on the autism spectrum are fully employed. Not only that, but many of the types of jobs available are minimum wage with no chance of advancement. Adults on the spectrum who are ambitious deserve better.

The question is… why? Many of these individuals have a great work ethic, are well educated, and have the credentials needed for a number of vocations. Why is it hard for them to find employment? I believe the answer to this all comes down to social skills. An understanding of social skills is needed in the workplace — and rightfully so, as good communication is needed when working at a job. However, individuals on the spectrum often have a hard time with this component. There are two potential pitfalls:

Social skills during the interview. At the initial interview for a job, the interviewer must see if the potential employee is right for the position. For an individual on the spectrum, this can be difficult. They might have trouble verbally articulating their answer, making eye contact, or even be anxious about everything. I can personally remember job interviews were an issue for me. I was always on edge during them, and it felt like one wrong move and I would be disqualified. This is a major factor, but not the only one.

Misunderstanding of social cues on the job. Luckily, there are those who have been able to land a job. Even then, there can be some issues socially. For instance, if working with others, a person on the spectrum might not be able to understand their social cues. This could lead them to feel very stressed and anxious. There were times in the past where I felt this way because I couldn’t understand social cues.

These two factors can make it difficult for a person on the spectrum to obtain and keep a job. Much needs to be done to help with this. There are some services, such as federal and social services, that can help with job coaching. However, there are not many and some require a long process in order to help the individual.

Although this might seem like an uncertain picture, there have been agencies created to help those on the autism spectrum obtain employment based on the special skills they possess, including Specialisterne, SAP Autism, and Auticon. For instance, Specialisterne has helped those on the spectrum find employment through assessment programs to determine in which positions in IT firms they would be successful. They have worked with firms such as Ernst and Young to place workers. They also help with how to ace a job interview. Other agencies, such as Auticon, a technology firm based in Germany, help individuals on the spectrum with their anxiety by providing life coaches to assist with factors such as understanding social cues.

Some change is in the making. However, more must be done to help our population. In such a fast-growing world of employment and opportunity, there is no reason why we individuals on the autism spectrum should be left out.

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Getty image by PondShots.

Originally published: December 17, 2017
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