ASA's 37th National Conference on Autism Spectrum Disorders (July 13-15, 2006)

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Saturday, July 15, 2006: 12:15 PM-1:30 PM
551 A-B
#1956- Preparing for the Real World of Work
Preparing for employment is like putting together a business plan. The goal is to prepare the teenagers (of different ability levels) for making income based on their interests, as well as focusing on the attributes and skills most required by employers. The following will be discussed: types of employment structures including micro-enterprise; the skills teens need to learn including problem solving, self regulation, and social communication; and the use of mentors to make connections in the business world.

Presenters:Chantal Sicile-Kira, BA, Social, Ecology, Autism: Making a Difference, Executive Director - Chantal Sicile-Kira is the author of 'Autism Spectrum Disorders' (recipient of the 2005 ASA’s Outstanding Literary Work of the Year Award) and 'Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum', both published by Penguin. Chantal has been involved with ASDs for nearly 20 years, first as a professional and then as a parent. She hosts a weekly radio show on Autism One Radio ( and is a national speaker and consultant on ASDs including adolescent issues and transition planning. Chantal is the founder of Autism: Making a Difference, Inc. and is active with various non-profits, including the San Diego Chapter of the ASA.

Stephen M. Shore, Ed.D., Adelphi University in New York, Assistant Professor - Nonverbal until four and recommended for institutionalization, Dr. Shore focuses on empowering people with autism to develop their capacities to their fullest extent possible. Internationally known author and educator, Stephen serves as a board member for the Autism Society and, other autism-related organizations and is on faculty at Adelphi University.

According to the President's Commission on Excellence in Education (July 2002) the autism population remains the most unemployed population despite the fact that, according to the US Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, that the dropout rates for students 14 years and older with autism were lower than students with any other disability.

This means that we need to better prepare our teenagers during the high school transition years and that we need to do a better job of marketing the idea of hiring individuals on the autism spectrum to potential employers and clients. To do this, we must analyze employer needs and structures, be more proactive about making contacts in the employment sector through the use of mentors, and teach teenagers the skills they need to fulfill employer needs as well as the coping strategies for the work environment. Many, if given proper opportunities and training, have skills and abilities that would be valuable in appropriate work settings.

Another need is to educate potential employers and clients the positive aspects of hiring the person with autism (ie many have a number of the top 10 attributes and skills employers look for as defined by the US Department of Labor), and how they relate to the employer's or client's needs. Then, accommodations needed by the individuals with autism and Asperger's Syndrome can be discussed.

For adults to be productive and successful in earning income and having a job or a career, both parents and professionals need to take a more proactive role during the transition years of high school, while the students can benefit from mandated services under IDEA.

Learning Objectives of this session:

Attendees will be able to identify the different types of employment structures and employer needs and explain how those relate to individuals on the autism spectrum. Attendees will be able to draw useful information on how to match students to potential jobs and careers and how to find useful mentors in the community. Attendees will be able to discuss the coping and accommodating strategies, as well as the skills the student on the spectrum needs to learn to be a successfully working adult.

Different Employment Structures:

The following employment structures currently existing in the community will be explained: competitive employment, supported employment, full-time employment, part-time employment, permanent employment, short-term jobs, seasonal jobs, sheltered self-employment and micro-enterprise. Self-employment and micro-enterprise are employment structures that are flexible and provide opportunities even for those who are severely impacted by autism, and special attention will be given to explaining how this can be a viable option for many on the spectrum. Matching the individual to the right kind of employment structure is important and this will be discussed.

Employer's Needs

Looking at the employers' needs helps us to understand the qualities students with autism have to offer as well as the challenges they face and skills or strategies they need to learn. Presenters will discuss the top ten skills and attributes that employers look for (as described in Job Outlook 2003, US Natl. Assoc. of Colleges and Employers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Dept of Labor) and how these relate to individuals with autism. These skills and attributes are: honesty, strong work ethic, analytical skills, teamwork, computer skills. time management / organizational skills, communication (oral and written), flexibility, interpersonal skills, and motivation /initiative

How to Know Which Job/Career Will Be a Good Match:

In order to find a good match for the future adult, different aspects must be considered and these will be discussed by the presenters: Listening to the student's hopes and dreams, analyzing the teenager's talents and interests, and analyzing the teenager's strengths and challenges can help us in determining for which possible careers or jobs they may be suited. Presenters will discuss the different thinking styles that affect the kind of work a person may be suited to. Those helping to find work for the individual need also to consider the supply/demand in the marketplace and workplace, the skills and abilities needed for particular jobs / careers as well as the environmental needs of the person on the spectrum.

Finding and Using Mentors:

Mentors are important to learning about different careers and jobs as well as learning what is needed to be successful in that particular niche. employment. Often mentors can be helpful in providing contacts for possible work experiences. Areas to be discussed by the presenters include: who can be a mentor, what role they play, and how to find them in your community.

Skills the Student Needs to Learn Keep a Job or Have a Career:

Many of the skills needed to be successful in the workplace as an adult are the same that are needed in high school and incude the skills and attributes requested by employers. Depending on the ability level of each student, the following skills can be taught to some extent and generalized to the workplace: Executive functions, Generalizing / Problem solving Self advocacy and disclosure Self regulation (for both sensory overload and emotional responses) Perspective taking / empathy Social communication ( hidden curriculum, idioms and metaphors, Water cooler' etiquette)

Coping Strategies and Accommodations:

When a person has learned some skills but not all, that are necessary for a particular job that he is interested in pursuing, it will be necessary to think about what accommodations can be made to make this a viable match. Also, in analyzing the environmental needs of the individual on the spectrum (ie little noise, no bright lights, few people) it will be necessary to look at what coping strategies the person with autism can use, or what workplace accommodations can be made.

Appropriate resources for more information will be given.

See more of The ASA's 37th National Conference on Autism Spectrum Disorders (July 13-15, 2006)