Unfortunately, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a condition that is considered a disability by many employers. That’s why autistic adults have difficulty finding regular, paying jobs—they make up approximately 2% of the workforce.
The reason this happens is that there is a considerable lack of awareness when it comes to autism. Many people don’t know what living with autism implies and often believe intellectual disabilities are the main symptom of this disorder. Employers don’t know how to accommodate autistic people in the office best or focus on the wrong training needs. In addition, employers believe that working alongside a person with autism will cause problems with the other staff members.
Luckily, more and more companies are open to hiring disabled employees—so autistic adults (and teenagers) will have more options.
Eventually, your little ray of sunshine will grow into a teenager, and you will ask yourself: Will my baby get a job? Will they go to college? How can I prepare them for what’s next?
If your autistic teenager is interested in getting a job, then with the proper training and planning, they can find the path to a successful career. If you are unsure what your child can do, then you can look at the following:
- Your child’s interests: does your child like computer games or working with animals?
- Your child’s strengths: your little one might be good at math or talking to people.
Finding a job might be daunting, but don’t lose hope. You can visit career advisers at your child’s school for extra help. This article explores strategies for helping teenagers prepare for work.
Tips for Preparing Autistic Teenagers for Work
First, you might wonder why part-time jobs or casual work are good for autistic teenagers. Here’s why:
- Help your autistic child develop their skills and interests—and even learn how to use them;
- Build your child’s sense of independence and responsibility;
- Give your child with autism a chance to earn and value money;
- Boosts your child’s confidence and self-esteem;
- Help your child balance life and work, and develop skills such as commitment, time management, decision-making, problem-solving, teamwork, etc.
Without further ado, here are some strategies to help your teenager prepare for what’s in store.
Prepare in Advance
It’s best to start early and let your child explore and develop their particular interests. Any growing child, neurotypical or not, tries to figure out what they want to be when they grow up—and the answer is not always clear. A teen needs time and space to experiment and change their minds about the activities they enjoy or do well in.
Some schools offer programs where they can teach social and life skills. However, they might not be early enough or don’t run all year. Consider practicing these skills or doing activities outside school, such as cooking classes, sports, etc. There are also vocational training programs that start at the age of 14 and give teens time to develop real-world skills that will serve them in the future.
Help Teens Find Jobs
A thing to remember is that your child’s first part-time job won’t be eternal. While adults change their careers and jobs to find the most suitable one, the experience of their first job might help them decide what they want to do in the future. Some of the best jobs for people with autism include software developer, journalist, accountant, or anything related to animals.
Here are some ways you can help teens find their first part-time job:
- Ask family, friends, or neighbors whether they need help with small jobs, such as gardening, dog walking, babysitting, etc.
- With your child, work on a list of local employers and companies you can approach (local shops, cafes, supermarkets, restaurants, etc.). If you’re an adult with autism looking for a job, here is a list of companies with autism programs.
- Look for jobs in your area online or notices in local shop windows.
- Encourage your child to apply to many jobs; don’t forget to tell them that it’s okay to be disappointed when rejected but to keep their hopes up for the next application.
What to Consider Before Finding a Suitable Job
While teens don’t often have a choice regarding jobs, it’s still a good idea to look for jobs that suit your family’s circumstances, abilities, lifestyle, and skills. You should consider the following issues when it comes to finding a part-time job:
- Work hours: think about when the job works best for you. Is it during the daytime or nighttime? Can your teen balance work, school, and hobbies?
- Location: can your child travel safely from home to work? Can you drive your teen to work when needed?
- Physical activity: is there a lot of heavy lifting, standing, or sitting? Think about your child’s needs before choosing a job.
- Employment status: find out whether your child needs to work at short notice, be on call, or if the hours are guaranteed.
- Workmates: will your teen be working with others or alone?
- Supervision and training: is your teen safe at work? Will there be someone to supervise and train your child?
Consider a Job Coach
You can consider hiring a job coach for your autistic teen. The benefits include:
- A job coach can identify particular techniques that help your child learn new tasks and even adapt to new schedules.
- Sometimes, a job coach can be a “liaison” between the employer and the employee. This relationship will ensure that the employer’s needs are met while advocating for the employee.
- A job coach assesses the accommodations and ensures the job meets them.
- A job coach can also enhance coping skills, such as journaling, relaxation techniques, and responses to different scenarios.
Creating a Resume
A resume is essential because it shows the employer your experience, strengths, and skills. They are required to write resumes, cover letters, and applications to apply for jobs.
You will need to help your child create their resume or ask for feedback from people who hire regularly. In some cases, you should create a non-traditional resume of interests and skills, especially since your teen might not have prior experience.
Volunteering might provide an opportunity to prepare for work. Autistic people need time and experience to build skills and feel more comfortable in the community. Find places where your child can volunteer, preferably within your child’s interests, where like-minded people can share their passion for an activity.
You can find many online resources that help your teen prepare their resume and create enticing job applications.
Prepare for an Interview
After applying for jobs, your teen will inevitably go to interviews. You can use photos or other visuals to help the interview process, especially if your child suffers from high anxiety due to nerves.
You can use calming toys or incorporate deep touch pressure to relax your child. Here are some suggestions:
Before an interview, here’s what you can do to prepare:
- Tell your employer about your child’s communication needs. If your autistic teen has a different way of communicating, then your employer should know that. Your child can also ask for more time to respond to questions or even have a communication support person.
- Use role play to practice at home. You can practice non-verbal communication (which are an important aspect of job interviews), such as eye contact, smiles, and handshakes.
- Set up mock interviews. You can practice interviewing with immediate family or friends to help your teen practice communicating about their skills and experience. In addition, your child can receive constructive feedback, making them feel more comfortable with the process.
- Prepare standard responses. You can prepare your child with some standard responses to interview questions like ‘What contribution will you make to our organization?’ or ‘What are your strengths and weaknesses?’ You can also ask the employer to give you the interview questions so your child can practice with specific questions.
- Do research on employers. This way, you can prepare questions that show interest in the organization and the job. Check the company's website to ensure that the questions cannot be easily answered.
If it’s a video interview, you can follow these strategies:
- Make your child practice looking at the camera; eye contact with the interviewer is important, no matter the medium.
- Choose an appropriate place to have an interview, preferably a quiet and well-lit area. Find a private place where your child can close the door.
- Ensure your child is familiar with the video application. Furthermore, test the equipment ahead of time and fix any problems that might arise.
Continue reading: 5 Great Career Paths for Adults with Autism.