By Jinaka Ugochukwu
According to a 2017 survey carried out by the NAS (National Autistic Society), only 16% of autistic adults are in full time employment and 77% of those unemployed would like to be in employment.
How can we bridge the Autistic employment gap?
It can be especially daunting if you’re a parent and your child is leaving education and thinking about their next steps, including finding a job and becoming an adult.
The following tips are useful to consider if you are a parent or carer of an autistic child and they are starting to look for a job.
1.Help to explore interests and skills
There are many ways to think about interests and skills but the next four activities may give you some inspiration.
Ask the person you are supporting about a typical day (or they can write it down). They/you should note down what activities they do. Then rate each activity on a scale from 1 to 3 (1- I love doing it, 2- I don’t mind doing it, 3- I really dislike it)
This activity can help someone to identify what they may like to do more or less of and perhaps what activities they may like in an ideal job.
Starting with the activities that are rated 1 (I love doing it), use post-it notes to list what skills are involved in completing that activity. This website may help you think about activities from a skills-based perspective.
Use the list of skills and think of a job that requires at least one of the skills. The more skills in the skill list it uses the better.
2. Explore their strengths and weaknesses
Ask the person you are supporting to answer these questions:
- What am I good at?
- What have others complimented me about?
- Which projects and tasks seem to use up my energy?
- What have others had to help me with on more than one occasion?
- What can I spend hours doing without feeling tired or bored?
- When I have free time what do I like to do? Why?
These answers in addition to the answers from Activities 1-3 can start to paint a picture of jobs that might be suitable.
2.Discuss this important question: Independent or supported employment?
Can they work independently or do they need supported employment?
If supported work is needed in the workplace, the government scheme called Access to Work (in the UK) might be useful. It is a scheme which provides grants to support people in the workplace and can help an employer pay for specialist equipment or any other adjustments which can help an individual in the workplace.
3. Explore ‘autistic friendly’ organisations together
In theory, every organisation should be an autism friendly workplace but the reality is sometimes different. Theres a few ways to find employers that can really support your child.
Firstly, the disability confident scheme recognises employers that are committed to hiring disabled employees.
Secondly, there are increasingly many schemes in places that recognises employers that are committed to hiring autistic individuals. These include P&G, Siemens, Auticon and Ernest and Young.
Stack only partners with autistic friendly organisations. Register here if you’re looking for employment.
4. Set a good example and share your work experiences
If you are employed it can be really helpful to share your experiences, including talking about what you do, what you do on a daily basis and rituals. Examples of these include making small talk in the mornings, contributing to collections and signing birthday cards and navigating the office lifestyle.
5. Offer guidance on writing CVs and cover letters
Many jobs still require an application form or a CV. Therefore, completing either of these can be really difficult for every job-seeker, not just an adult with autism.
Check out our guide to writing a basic CV so you can be in the best position to support an autistic individual with this task.
You can also email us at email@example.com to get access to our CV and cover letter templates.
6. Offer assistance writing application forms
Did you know that the key to a successful application form is to show competence in a skill?
Bear this in mind when someone asks you for help. The STAR framework is a popular way for people to think about their experiences and demonstrate competence in required skills. This technique can be useful both in applications, cover letters and interviews.
S Situation Where/When/With whom?
T Task Describe what you hoped to achieve
A Action Describe what you did
R Result What did you achieve? What skills did you develop?
‘While I typically like to plan out my work in stages and complete it piece by piece, I can also achieve high-quality work results under tight deadlines. Once, in a previous role, an employee left days before the imminent deadline of one of his tasks. I was asked to assume responsibility for it, with only a few days to learn about it and complete it. I asked other people to help and delegated tasks so we were all able to complete it with a day to spare.’
7. Mock interviews
Great, so your child has got a job interview! This is fantastic news, but can be daunting for an autistic individual.
One way to prepare for this is through role play. A good way to do this is by using the job description and preparing potential interview questions such as:
- Why do you want this role?
- Give me an example of a time where you’ve worked well in a team?
- What do you consider your strengths and weaknesses?
Wearing appropriate clothing can help it feel more realistic and you can even ask someone you know to act as the employer, which may make it feel more formal. This helps your child prepare for the interview and practice in a less formal setting.
8. Brush up on the law
a) If you think the person you’re helping would benefit from adjustments so they they can perform their best at interviews and within the job the law could help.
b) However, an individual doesn’t have to disclose the fact they’re autistic, but could benefit in three key ways:
- Employers have a duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ within the recruitment process and the job
- If reasonable adjustments are put in place, people are likely to be more successful at work and may find work less stressful.
- If colleagues know that someone is autistic, they are likely to be more understanding which can help build better relationships.
9. Collaborate on a safety plan
We really hope everything goes well in the workplace however remember this final tip just in case.
Support them to write a safety plan that they can follow. The plan will remind them about how they want to manage a situation that isn’t going well.
The following questions can help them form this plan:
- How will you know that all isn’t well?
- Who will you tell?
- How would you want them to help you?
Most people find the process of looking for work artificial, stressful and difficult to manage. We hope this article has given you tips and tricks to support your autistic child to make it a more comfortable process.
If your child is looking for work, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org to see how we can support them on their journey.