Ready for the Job

Several parents and teachers have asked for ideas about helping older teens with autism with job-readiness. What are the very basic skills necessary for employment?

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PERSONAL CARE. A person will have more job options if they can take care of their basic needs independently or with minimal assistance, i.e. toileting, lunch and snacks, hygiene, and keeping track of personal items such as a backpack or nametag.

FOCUS ON JOB. Most jobs require an employee focus on the task at hand for an extended period of time. An employee is most successful if they are able to complete tasks or job sequences with minimal prompting from a supervisor or job coach.

FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS. Successful employment requires cooperation. Even if some visual or verbal prompting is necessary, a person with autism needs to be able to pay attention to and follow instructions from supervisors and job coaches. They need to comply with safety regulations, emergency procedures, and workplace rules.

FLEXIBILITY. The nature of autism causes some individuals to be intolerant to changes in routine. A person will have a more successful job experience if she can learn to be flexible and “go with the flow.”

TIP FOR THE DAY: Parents and teachers can take an inventory of a teen’s strengths and deficits in these four areas, then develop strategies to help gradually shape basic job skills. Time spent now will impact a career for many years to come.

NOTE TO READERS AND LISTENERS: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At we are committed to providing free, practical, everyday tips for making life better for people with autism. Feel free to send me a confidential email at with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solution. And don’t forget to check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism.

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