Our New Book: Autism Working: A Seven-Stage Plan to Thriving at Work

Our New Book: Autism Working: A Seven-Stage Plan to Thriving at Work

Getting and keeping a job is not easy for someone who has autism. A recent survey indicated over 73 per cent of adults with autism have concerns about getting and keeping a job (Attwood, Evans and Lesko 2014). Parents also have their concerns, and rate employment support as their greatest service priority (Neary, Gilmore and Ashburner 2015). A study of over 400 autistic adults found that only 16 per cent are employed (Griffiths et al 2019) We also know that having a degree does not lead the way for employment success, with few adults with autism working in their undergraduate field of study (Loundes-Taylor et al 2015). When we consider those with autism who have a job, many are under-employed, that is their job does not match the person’s abilities, qualifications and aspirations.

 

This is despite autism being associated with qualities that are sought by employers such as; reliability, accuracy, persistence, attention to detail, liking routines and procedures, creativity in problem solving, extensive factual and technical knowledge, a strong sense of social justice, not letting socializing be a distraction, being talented in identifying errors for quality control and a natural ability with cataloguing information and identifying patterns and sequences. Having a successful career will significantly improve self-worth and self-identity, provide structure and purpose to the day, an opportunity to make friends, increase income and greater financial independence and be an effective antidote to depression. 

 

Autism Working: A Seven-Stage Plan to Thriving at Work was originally written to understand how the characteristics of autism will affect employment and to provide strategies to accommodate those characteristics in a work environment. Thus, the book will be valuable for those who are employed but can also be valuable as a programme in preparation for future employment.

 

We consider that no job or career would automatically be viewed as impossible due to having autism. This can include the expected careers in engineering, information technology, accounting and being a scientist at University, but also a career in the arts in terms of being a fine artist, musician, or author. We have also known adults with autism who have been successful in the caring professions, from nursing to psychology, as well as the military, police force and politics as well as careers caring for animals such as being a vet or zookeeper. There is no automatic restriction on choice of career if someone has autism.

 

How to choose that career? The first option may be to see if there are employment prospects related to a special interest or talent that is associated with the person’s profile of autism and personality. A childhood special interest in Lego that develops during adolescence into an intense interest in the design of machines could become the basis of a successful career in mechanical engineering. We highly recommend that adolescents who have autism have a detailed assessment of vocational abilities during the high school years to identify whether a special interest could be the foundation of a potential career and an assessment identifying areas of vocational abilities for improvement and this information is included in the high school curriculum. When there is a history of failed employment experiences, this can provide valuable information on what skills or employment accommodations are needed and which jobs or workplaces to avoid. It may take several employment experiences before finding the right job with the right employer.

 

When searching for a job that matches abilities, interests, qualifications and personality, it is important to find as much information as possible on the social and sensory aspects of the job and if feasible, the attitude of the line manager and workmates or colleagues to someone who has the characteristics of autism. People with autism can sometimes have a ‘sixth sense’ to quickly appraise the social atmosphere of a new situation and a positive or negative attitude can become apparent on meeting the staff and seeing the work environment prior to or during the interview process. We recommend trusting that intuition.

 

There will probably be a need for guidance in completing the application form and especially deciding whether to disclose the diagnosis.  There are no clear rules on disclosure when applying for a job and it is sometimes a personal decision based on whether disclosure would facilitate or inhibit achieving an interview. It is also important to decide what to wear for the interview and rehearsing how to answer the anticipated questions during the interview. If autism has been disclosed in the application, it may be an advantage to prepare a brief brochure on autism and associated qualities in relation to the position. The brochure can be attached to the application or given to those conducting the interview.

 

A job interview is a complex social ordeal. There is an expectation of accurately reading the body language of those conducting the interview and succinctly and honestly answering their questions. A candidate who has autism may have difficulty knowing the non-verbal signals and social conventions in an interview. We highly recommend practice and rehearsal in interviewing techniques and having an informative portfolio of relevant work experience that can be the focus of the interaction. If those conducting the interview know that the person has autism, it will help to be honest and describe some of the difficulties associated with autism, but that these are significantly less that the qualities associated with autism for the position and that there are strategies to facilitate successful employment. This book was written to provide those strategies.

 

In previous generations, men who had autism were most likely to have a career as craftsmen such as watch makers, jewellers and carpenters. These could be solitary pursuits with an emphasis on quality rather than quantity with relatively little stress compared to modern society with an emphasis on production rates and social networking. Historically, women had few career opportunities and were actively discouraged from joining the workforce and some careers such as medicine. Modern work practices and expectations cause great stress and distress for someone who has autism and any career or specific employment position must be evaluated in terms of stress levels and coping with changes in the job requirements, workload and the social and interpersonal dynamics of the job. Strategies for stress management may contribute significantly to having a successful career and is the first stage of our programme Autism Working.

 

Reference

The above article forms the Preface for our new book:

Garnett, M.S. & Attwood T. (2021) Autism Working: A Seven-Stage Plan to Thriving at Work. Jessica Kingsley Publishers: London, UK.

 

Available in Australia from Woodslane from approximately mid-November 2021

https://www.woodslane.com.au/Book/9781787759831/Autism-Working-A-Seven-Stage-Plan-to-Thriving-at-Work?page=36