An informal conversation with parents, teachers, and business people yielded a list of basic job skills that lead to successful employment. Even individuals who require a job coach in order to be successful benefit from learning skills that allow as much independence as possible on the job. The focus on employment skills need not wait until high school. Even young children benefit from learning job skills. And, in reality, some of our friends with autism are only able to make progress when skills are taught intently for a number of years.
Specific job skills that need attention depend, of course, on the type of job and on the level of support that may be necessary. But no matter what job lies in the future for a person with autism, it is wise to help develop skills in five basic categories:
(1) SELF-CARE. Options for employment will expand if a person with autism is able to take care of basic needs independently or with minimal assistance i.e. toileting, lunch and snacks, washing hands, and taking care of personal items such as a backpack or nametag.
(2) FOCUS. Most jobs require that an employee focus on the task at hand, so it is helpful to increase length of time a person can focus on a task without prompts.
(3) COMPLIANCE. A person with autism will be much more productive in any job if she can and will follow directions with minimal assistance. If she has deficits in processing verbal instructions, she can be taught to use a visual schedule so employers and job coaches can successfully communicate the information she needs to complete a task or a job sequence. If she is rather strong-willed or uncooperative, you can gradually shape cooperation and a willingness to follow directions and job procedures.
(4) FINSIH. Even when jobs are broken down into a series of smaller tasks, some individuals with autism are unable to complete those tasks without prompting. Her employment will be much more successful if an individual can learn to finish tasks or job sequences with less and less prompting from a supervisor or job coach.
(5) FLEXIBILITY. The nature of autism causes some individuals to be intolerant to changes in routine. An individual will have a much more successful job experience if he can learn to be more flexible and “go with the flow.”
The goal in job preparation is not perfection. Instead, focus on maximizing abilities and develop strategies to compensate for weak areas. Persistent and patient coaching will contribute to successful employment in the future. We welcome suggestions from our readers about other job-related skills and about strategies that help shape those critical skills. Just click on the comments button or send an e-mail to talk@FAQautism.com.
Note to FAQautism.com listeners and readers: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At FAQautism.com we are committed to providing free, practical, everyday tips for making life better for people with autism. You can click on a button to send me an email with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solutions. Check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism. www.FAQautism.com