This is the kind of thinking we need to see more of. It's gradually getting there, but please share this article with others - I think articles like this can really help people understand individuals o
Workers with Asperger Syndrome or autism can fill workplace needs Do you need a worker who pays attention to detail? Who will do tedious data entry job? Who won’t waste time gossiping?
You might find that you need someone with autism or Asperger Syndrome.
This is National Autism Month. Advocates have geared up to share sobering statistics about the increasing numbers of children with the diagnosis.
Adults with autism or its milder form, Asperger’s, have a hard time finding jobs now. What will the jobless rate be for that group when — if current statistics are correct — the 1 in 110 children who have autism try to become employed?
“As it is now, lots of people with autism or Asperger’s are looking for full-time jobs, but their gifts are not recognized,” says Sean Swindler, director of community program development at the Kansas Center for Autism Research and Training. “Our challenge is finding jobs that fit them.”
Swindler tells of a successful job placement: A man with autism works in a bank, running cash from the tellers’ windows to the vaults.
“He deals in very black and white thinking,” Swindler explains. “He’s absolutely honest. He has very strong attention to detail. When he’s handed the money it will go into the vault. Always.”
Others are great at computer work.
But when advocates for hiring such individuals visit with employers, they often run into stumbling blocks:
The organization is downsizing.
It can’t see how to “job carve” — to draw duties from existing positions to fit the person with a disability.
It doesn’t have the comfort level or knowledge to deal with the individual.
It worries about costs and productivity.
Groups like Swindler’s try to educate.
“People with these disabilities who are leaving school now are not expecting to be in sheltered workshop environments. They’re expecting to be a full member of the community, the way their education has prepared them to be,” Swindler says.
But vocational rehabilitation money, which funds job coaches who train and place persons with disabilities in the workplace, is in desperately short supply, a victim of pared-down state budgets.
“We have people on the waiting list for seven years,” Swindler says of those wanting job-related support services. “They sit in their parents’ houses for years, losing all the skills they were taught in school.”
Furthermore, he notes, about half the people with Asperger’s or autism don’t qualify for state-funded disability services, “so they’re completely on their own in the job market.”
Temple Grandin, an animal scientist who is perhaps the most famous person with autism in America today, has co-authored a book with writer Kate Duffy on “Developing Talents: Careers for Individuals with Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism.”
It is a practical guide for persons with those disabilities and their families.
In a tight job market, it’s hard to advocate for special cases, but it’s something that has to be done, or lots of tax dollars are wasted and talents lost.
Diane Stafford's workplace columns are published on Thursdays in The Kansas City Star.
Casey Burgess has a B.Sc.in Psychology, an M.A. in Education (Curriculum and Instruction), and a Ph.D. in progress in Education (Cognition and Learning). She has 20 years experience with direct service, curriculum development, workshop facilitation, and supervisory experience supporting children who have Autism Spectrum Disorders, and their families. She currently frames her work using a developmental, relationship-based, self-regulation lens.