As your child grows into teenagehood, it is quite normal to worry about their future and career. However, with the many opportunities available for children with autism, there is really no cause for worrying. Today’s parent would rather have their child get used to normal study and work rather than shelter them. So yes, it is possible to explore various opportunities and find the right fit for your child.
Having your teen engage actively in the job environment will not only eliminate the increased stress brought about by increasingly complex social expectations, but will also help you and your teen turn a specific discovered interest into a long-term career goal!
A teenage on the autism spectrum, just like every other teen, has strengths and weaknesses which serve as pointers to a career line that they can settle and excel in.
How to find the right placement for your teen
Finding that right first job will help your teen to develop his or her strengths rather than concentrate on weakness. Consider jobs that will provide structure and routine as well as a rich social setting. Even volunteering activities can be a good way of encouraging your teen to focus on accomplishing tasks set for them, which is a general requirement in a any job setting, be it employment or self-employment.
Because your teen will need coping strategies, such opportunities as paid volunteer programs can be the best platform for them. Here, apart from just interacting with others in a team setting, he or she will also gain some interpersonal skills like time management, budgeting, communication, and multi tasking.
However, the very first and most important step is to identify your teen’s interests, likes, and dislikes, which is what forms the basis of a job search.
Experts emphasize the fact that getting your child into employment is better done at an early age. This is after getting to know their interests. While some may be lucky enough to get employment, others often begin by volunteering. This is also quite okay because it helps them get involved with a cause dear to them without any financial motivation. And this is really the right way to identify causes that matter most to them.
Volunteering in projects that are meaningful to the child has the advantage of:
- Providing opportunity for your teen with ASD to meet with and interact with new people and gain some social skills in the process.
- It gives the employer and society the opportunity to know your child’s interests, strengths, and weaknesses.
- Volunteering can open up opportunities for employment along the same lines.
- Volunteering programs usually offer a certificate of participation at the end and this is a great addition to one’s resume.
Some volunteering ideas include:
- Organizations dealing with conservation
- Local animal and welfare programs
- Supporting food programs in the local community
- Programs geared towards teaching a second language to immigrants
- Community gardens
- Senior citizens’ residential centers
- Church volunteer programs
Tips to help your teen prepare for full-time employment or volunteer work
- Business cards detailing your teen’s particulars, interests, skills and experience are a good starting point.
- Sometimes your child is just a coaching session away from an opportunity. Get him a job coach or register for him a career support program to help him with his resume and applications.
- Skills like cold-calling, telephone etiquette, and email communication are an asset during job searches. Guide your child into honing such skills.
- Beyond calling and sending emails, your child may have to go in person to prospective employers to check up on the process. This has been tried and tested and it actually works.
Ask yourself: What next? After sending dozens of applications, dropping off resumes, and making calls, there is a greater need to prepare for the interview. You never know how soon an invitation will come. Using role play, teach your child some basic interview skills. Apart from that, in case he gets an invitation for an interview, you may want to get in touch with the organization in question and request them to interview your child in a manner that is comfortable with him.
Although teens with autism may require some extra support to go out as candidates in the job market, the best place to start with your child is getting to know what they want to achieve and guiding him or her to fulfill their goal one step at a time.
Help your teen in the following ways:
- Help them highlight their skills and interests, then help them to define the importance of these skills in the job environment.
- Skills can be improved! Therefore, engage your child in activities that will sharpen their skills.
- Help him weigh the demand of their skills against his chances of getting employment and consider options that can make him more competitive for instance by improving secondary or supportive skills that are on demand.
- Help him define a goal or an endpoint. Once this is settled, it becomes much easier to define a career path.
- Help him focus on his experience rather than personality when looking for employment.
- Help him to learn how to communicate his social limitations to his prospective employer.
In the event that you have discussed with your child and are confident in their abilities to thrive, support them through the process of securing his first employment.
Secondly, advise your teen that there is no harm in offering to do a trial job for a few weeks if this will help convince the employer of his capabilities. Periodic contract jobs are also a good way to enter the job market.
Customization of jobs for teens with autism
After studying the strengths of your child and comparing them to skills offered in the job market, take an extra step to talk with employers on his behalf. You will be surprised that some employers will be more than willing to customize a job position for your child and allow him to concentrate on his interests and skills. This is not only beneficial to your child but it will help create rapport between him and his employer, creating a friendlier and supportive work environment. This strategy is based on an employment approach that helps one to advance their skills in the job environment.
Employment customization often takes different approaches depending on the employer’s needs vis-à-vis the employee’s capabilities. Some options for an employee with ASD may include:
- Dividing a task between two or more employees according to their interests and skills so that one concentrates in what he can do best.
- Job carving defines a job description based on the needs and abilities of your child. In this case, the employer only assigns tasks your teen is capable of doing.
- Reassignment of tasks where some parts of a certain task will be reassigned to your teen but the main part of the task will still be done by the person it was initially assigned to.
Competitive jobs for teens with autism
You can also introduce your teen right into the competitive job environment. This option may be good for teens on the spectrum who do not need much supervision and can work fulltime or part time in an enterprise that pays above minimum wage.
The bottom line
Supported employment services ideal for ASD teens or employees are widespread thanks to the realization of the important role that these people play in the organization and the entire economy as a whole. Such services are usually offered by the state. More specialized support is also available and the state can be instrumental in identifying the accredited ones.
Some employers have integrated such support in specific job positions making it easy for employees with ASD to cope because he will be receiving support to help him maintain his job. In such work places, employers, supervisors, coaches, mentors, and coworkers have been trained to provide people with autism with the needed support to remain in their job. Such work environments will provide personal satisfaction in the workplace regardless of the autism spectrum. An advantage of such programs is that your teen will be supported not only to express his preferences but also be empowered to choose employment advisors and other specific service providers who will help them perform their duties as required. Consider checking with the Vocational Rehabilitation and Autisms Disorders projects for the best supported program for your teenager.