Choose a career area that focuses on individual strengths. Individuals with autism spectrum disorders often have a lot of scatter in their abilities, including areas of significant strength. They may be very visual thinkers who are driven toward drawing or making things. Others may be more inclined toward numbers and mathematics. Those individual strengths should be a focus of employment goals.
In her book “Keys to Successful Independent Living, Employment and a Good Social Life for Individuals with Autism and Asperger’s,” Temple Grandin recommends gradual transitions to the workforce. Those transitions should include mentors and freelance work while still in high school. Volunteer work can also be beneficial. The goal is to have an introduction to the chosen area of future employment.
Mentors can make a huge difference in the success of individuals with autism spectrum disorders. A mentor can not only give advice, they can inspire and guide young adults in their career journey. School staff members who teach in areas of interest or who help with job programs could serve as a mentor. A mentor could also be a family member or a professional who works in the field. The mentor will encourage, give direction, and help provide information.
Access Job Training and Supports for Those With Autism
Access training in high school. Many schools have job programs that give school credit for work experience. Those programs will assist with getting a job, we well as the skills necessary for keeping that job. Public schools also have vocational work classes for lower functioning students. Those classes often provide a job coach or other types of supported employment. Schools also have many elective programs that help in training for a variety of careers.
Start building a portfolio. High school is the time to start working on a portfolio. A portfolio is essential for individuals on the autism spectrum. Temple Grandin suggests that, people with autism spectrum disorders should concentrate on selling their skills, rather than themselves. The portfolio is a critical part of selling their skills. It should have pictures or examples of their best work. A good portfolio may take time to put together, though.
Parents and teachers should help students with autism spectrum disorders connect to relevant agencies. There are many public service agencies that focus on connecting individuals with special needs to potential employers. That support can be critical and, due to sometimes lengthy paperwork processes, it should be started in high school. The Autism Society recommends contacting state employment offices, state vocational rehabilitation offices, social service agencies, mental health agencies and disability specific organizations.
Preparing Teens With Autism for Employment
While employment for those with autism can sometimes be challenging, the right preparation can reduce those challenges and bring success. That preparation requires having the right support and training. Teenagers who have that support and training are on their way to better employment future.
Online Autism Screening Tools
Autism is becoming a household word these days. The latest report from the CDC confirms that approximately 1 in 150 children in the United States is diagnosed with one of the five types of autism spectrum disorders. Concerned parents and caregivers alike are turning to the Internet to learn more about the autism spectrum. Using one of these online screening tools can prove to be a great starting point to opening a dialogue with an autism professional.
Childbrain.com PDD Assessment Scale
The Child Neurology and Developmental Center, based in New Hyde Park, NY, has created The PDD Assessment Scale/Screening Questionnaire. The questionnaire is based on the DSM-IV criteria for pervasive developmental disorders and is divided into four sections: social interaction difficulties, speech and language delay, abnormal symbolic or imaginary play, and behavioral difficulties. Detailed instructions are provided on how to answer each question. At the end you will be presented with an overall score and a general level of dysfunction. This assessment can then be printed and taken to your doctor.
Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT)
Created by Diana Robins, M.A. and Deborah Fein, Ph.D., the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) is designed for children aged between 16 and 30 months. The M-CHAT is usually administered when a doctor is already concerned about the child’s developmental history.
The Australian Scale for Asperger’s Syndrome
Designed by noted Australian researcher Tony Atwood, Ph.D., the Australian Scale for Asperger’s Syndrome provides readers with an easy way to determine if they may have Asperger’s Syndrome. Parents can fill it out for their child or adults, who feel that they may have Asperger’s Syndrome themselves, can complete the questionnaire.
The Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ Test)
The Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ Test) was designed by Cambridge psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen. This test is meant specifically for adults who feel that they exhibit autistic tendencies. The 50 question AQ Test is scored instantly online.
These are four of the more popular, and respected, autism spectrum disorder screening tools available for personal use online. It is extremely important to understand that these four questionnaires are merely screening tools and do not serve as a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder. The purpose of these questionnaires is to give you the tools to start an educated dialogue with your health care provider. An accurate diagnosis can only be made by a professional who is experienced with autism spectrum disorders.