Autism Finds Its Way to the Job Market
A program gives hope for a brighter future for kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Being different is difficult, having Autism can be even more grueling. However, should we give in to despair? No, and Elizabeth Preston couldn’t be more unequivocal. In her article Work in Progress: An Inside Loo at Autism’s Job Boom, published on SpectrumNews.org, she dives deeply into the complicated situation of the people struggling with Autism trying to find a job in today’s workplace. The biggest problem, unfortunately, is that most of them lack education and experience.
“In the United States, only 55 percent of adults with Autism had worked at any point during the six years after high school graduation, according to a 2012 study. By contrast, 74 percent of young adults with intellectual disability had some work experience. Youth with an ASD had the lowest rates of participation in employment and the highest rates of no participation compared with youth in other disability categories.”
However, there is always hope. The Dan Marino Foundation in Fort Lauderdale, Florida has started a program to help young adults with autism to build up the necessary skills, confidence and training to find their place in professional life. What’s this program all about?
“Students here learn workplace skills, train for industry certifications and complete internships. They can even practice interviewing — a hurdle that otherwise can be insurmountable for job seekers with autism.”
What do people with Autism think?
Bryan Siravo, one of the Foundation’s graduates, knows the taste of bitterness when looking for a job and living with Autism Spectrum Disorder. After an unsuccessfully searching for a job, he enrolled in an information technology program at the Dan Marino Foundation.
“Siravo says he didn’t mind the long commute by bus, or the fact that his role was closer to maintenance than information technology, but he notes that there were some difficult adjustments nonetheless. He and his supervisor ‘sort of had tiffs,’ Siravo says. ‘She thought I was using my disability to make excuses, which I never do.’”
Bryan’s path wasn’t easy and it took some time before he finally started working in the field he was trained for. Siravo’s path has become a story of hope for people just like him, and then number of people participating in the same program has been increasing annually.
“Of the first 16 students, who graduated last year, 9 are employed. This year’s class has 32 students. A second campus is scheduled to open this September at Florida International University in Miami.”
What do we think about ASD in the workplace?
We believe that teaching adequate job skills is necessary for kids regardless of developmental disabilities. That being said, we do know how hard it can be for those with Autism Disorder to find a regular job and fit into society. They are shy, insecure, self-conscious, and often have problems with communication. What they lack is compensated by inner motivation and desire to prove that they can be as normal and valuable as anyone else.
“Even as interns, the students are invaluable, says Rebecca Bratter, shareholder at the law firm Greenspoon Marder in Fort Lauderdale, which has taken on about a dozen of interns with ASD over the past two years. The students take pride in their work and do tasks none of the employees want to, such as handling a backlog of returned mail, Bratter says. “[We didn’t] know how much we really needed them until we got them.”
Despite the few initiatives, which of course is not nearly enough, the opportunities for people on the spectrum are increasing. Companies like Ultra Testing primarily hire adults with autism. Technology giants, such as SAP, Microsoft and HP Australia have given their support by hiring more and more people with autism. If our society is willing to accept people with developmental disabilities, with time and effort we will achieve it.
The James Stanfield Company offers multiple programs that can help with just that, our First Impressions series teaches students about the importance of hygiene, grooming, dress, and attitude. Our First Job Survival series teaches students about the most common pitfalls during the first 90 days at work. We believe that if our society is willing to accept people with developmental disabilities, with time and effort we will achieve it.