My job is to bring people together—to create an environment where the employee can maximize their potential and an employer can utilize that potential.
As an employment specialist for Compass Resource Group one of my first steps in trying to uncover their potential is to assess the soft and hard skills of the individual. In my experience this seems to be the greatest barrier individuals with Asperger’s face. In the next few entries I plan to discuss the difference between hard and soft skills as they apply to both the search for and maintenance of employment.
What are soft skills? The Oxford Dictionary defines soft skills as personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.
With regards to soft skills, the greatest questions from job seekers and employers are:
How do I encourage friendly interactions between coworkers and supervisors
How do I create and maintain a comfortable and safe work environment
How do I address the unique logistical concerns of employment such as changing schedules and arranging transportation as they affect individuals with Asperger’s
In the next post I will discuss the different strategies we at Compass Resource employ to foster an environment of mutual respect and understanding between the employee, their coworkers and supervisors in the workplace.
Jewelry Designed to Impart how it “Feels” to have Autism
One of the highlights when Sam and I speak at autism conferences is the reaction to a simple painting he had created depicting how it ‘feels’ to have autism. His interpretation offers a great insight and a relate-ability satisfying most neurotypical minds. As a result to the overwhelming positive feedback…we incorporated Sam’s painting into our logo and now have made it into jewelry to wear!
Make no mistake, this is a fundraiser. 100% of all proceeds will directly fuel the cost to provide Aspergers101 as an ongoing free resource and it’s outreach! You can read more about our work at the end of the blog but the focus of this blog is on you and our most uncommon path of raising a child with Autism/Asperger Syndrome.
The Path Less Traveled
The Autism Charm was created out of experience. Both mine and Sam’s journey, though unique to us, is shared by everyone who has a child diagnosed with Autism or Asperger Syndrome. It’s a path less traveled. Early on, a parent finds themselves a bit of an Indiana Jones forging their way through the bramble and uncertainty of EVERYTHING…but you forge on. Years of working together seems each grade advancement was a huge accomphlishment and for a moment, a plateau to rest until onward and upward yet again. You know the path. It was on this isolated journey I met a friend who had, up until that time, also forged it with her son…alone. We formed a most valuable, immediate friendship that felt like an exclusive club! There were others out there and that felt good.
The Parents Bond of Autism
It was from this newly formed friendship that I realized our paths should not be forged alone. If anything, being down the path a bit my family and I then decided to reach out to help others just starting out. Knowledge was power and there is nothing more powerful than a mothers bond of a child with autism…we know each others struggles! Do you find yourself immediately drawn to another parent whose child is on the spectrum? An empathy and fierce loyalty is instant! To remind me of this bond and that I am not alone as I feel, my friend gave me a bracelet that I’ve worn out! It has a symbol of autism that though only she and I wore, that was a daily reminder that I can get through this….there are others!
The Autism Charm Design
So now we, Aspergers101, have taken the logo Samuel designed and made it into a charm bracelet or necklace! We hope you wear it with pride and know that you are never alone in your struggles. Of course, it is through my families faith in God that offers us peace but good to be reminded that others tread the brambled path of Autism. I’ll repost Sam’s description of his design:
“I painted this abstract picture to show neurotypicals what it feels like to have Aspergers Syndrome. At the time, I was enrolled in Art Appreciation I at Northeast Lakeview College. One day after class, I was at home and suddenly felt like painting, so I got some brushes, a canvas, and some acrylic paint and began to paint while envisioning the picture and its message in my mind. The black and white background represents how aspies tend to see the world in a black-and-white perspective and that we tend to act monotonous. The colors inside the head represent how our minds are bursting with extraordinary ideas. The white lines above the head represent how when we try to say what’s on our minds, it tends to get distorted by our social awkwardness.” by: Samuel Allen
We hope you like and share The Autism Charm bracelet and/or necklace!
You can learn more about Aspergers101 and it’s work here: About Us
Are you an employer looking to better your practice of hiring persons diagnosed with autism? Or perhaps you are looking for employment yourself but have had difficulty getting past the interview process. We wanted to offer you a powerful resource from a recent webinar titled: Empowerment: Building Success for Employees Diagnosed with Autism. Presenters offer expert advice on common workplace challenges such as sensory, social, and thinking and processing then provide suggested accommodations to maximize performance. Simply hiring those with autism isn’t a win for either party, but looking beyond personality alone and hiring the talent of the person with autism is where companies like H-E-B have discovered the win-win scenario.
Jennifer Hines with Texas Workforce Commission/Vocational Rehabilitation revels how local workforce boards, public universities, and private employers have discovered how to successfully balance the needs of the business’ bottom line with the employment goals of people with Autism.
Jennifer Allen with Aspergers101 offers insight into an employer’s basic understanding of Autism and Asperger Syndrome while discussing the most common workplace challenges experienced by people diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and offer specific suggestions for accommodations.
Finally, the Director of Recruiting at H-E-B, Jenn Byron Ross, shares best employer practices and how they are attracting talented people on the Autism spectrum for jobs across the organization—from bagger to software developer.
Aspergers101 would like to offer you the following downloadables for continued information on employing those with Autism or those seeking employment by Dr Temple Grandin.
Yes, we've answered 101 of your questions about Asperger Syndrome!
Whether you are beginning to suspect your child (or yourself) might have a form of Autism or Asperger Syndrome, or you are already on your journey, this resource was compiled for you!
We polled the 101 top requested questions on Asperger Syndrome and put them in one place for those seeking information on High Functioning Autism or Asperger Syndrome! These questions range from the origins of Asperger Syndrome, the early signs all the way through adulthood. Some questions merited a one word response while others provide you with a detailed bullet-point answer. We would like to thank our underwriting sponsor: The Starfish Social Club for supporting and providing you this on-going free resource! To access Aspergers101 FAQ page either click on the ad below or find it permanently located at the top of our menu bar on our website under the “Asperger Syndrome” tab.
Volunteering at an animal shelter is a great way for tweens, teens and young adults on the autism spectrum to practice and improve social and job skills. They also learn responsibility and a respect for animals. As visitors come into animal shelters to look at animals available for adoption, it’s the perfect place for teens to improve face-to-face communication. The experience they gain volunteering at an animal shelter molds them into more effective volunteers and prepares them for the workforce.
Their time spent volunteering will produce better outcomes (adoptions) if they have good communication skills. Here are some top social skills from my book to ensure teens maximize the chance of an animal getting adopted, and master important social and job skills:
1. Smile and Say Hello:
When you see another person, whether a co-volunteer, staff member or visitor, smile and say “Hello”. Your smile will set the tone for positive future interactions and brighten the person’s day. It may even lead to an animal getting adopted or a financial donation. It all starts with a smile!
I used to volunteer at an animal shelter walking dogs. Often I would be in the back of the shelter bringing a dog in or taking one out. There would be people in the back of the animal shelter looking for animals to possibly adopt. I would smile and say “Hello”. I’d ask if they had questions about any of the dogs I walked. Often they would. After telling them about the animals, I’d suggest they spend time with any animal they were interested in. About 70% of the time they’d end up adopting an animal just because I engaged them and was able to provide helpful information. You can do the same thing!
2. Turn Off the Electronics:
When you are volunteering, keep your phone at home, or turned off, on silent or vibrate mode, and out of sight. This is part of being a professional volunteer and lays the foundation for good work habits.
I left school in 1994 and had my first job interviews in the same year. I was, like most Aspies both then and now, full of nerves fueled by a strong desire to make the right impression. What I hope to do here is outline what I did to overcome them and what helpful advice I was given, which will hopefully also be of use to you. My very first interview was in a hotel in my hometown. My mother had a wee word with me the night before. Mum’s advice was very well-intentioned — keep your answers short, don’t mention any of your difficulties and make yourself come across as the best person for the job (some kind of receptionist-cum-general-dogsbody). So, off I went, smartly dressed, quite nervous and determined to make a good impression.
I was greeted at the door of this place by someone whom I can only describe as a vamp, who swept me in and then proceeded to tell me all the reasons why I should not want to work there! I left what seemed like hours later, still not quite sure what had happened. I did, however, learn a very valuable lesson that day.
Always keep a little bit of your brain aside to expect the unexpected (I know that’s a big ask for an Aspie and may even provoke more anxiety but it’s a fact of life and we can all handle the unexpected with the right coping strategies).
Experience Number Two —a café in Edinburgh, where I went for a job as a cleaner.
I will, no doubt, in the fullness of time, devote a full and frank article to my many and varied experiences in this job. Suffice it to say that it was not a happy experience, but I learned a lot from the interview. Closed question followed closed question. Have you done this kind of work before? Are you able to work the hours as advertised? When can you start? Danger signs should have been flashing, but, as usual, they were not.
I was not picking up on the signs being given to me by my interviewer. This is most definitely not a good thing. I got the job. What I also got was one very valuable lesson — pick up on the bits in-between the words of your interviewer. How desperate are they to get someone — anyone — into the job? Why are they so keen to have it filled quickly? How interested are they in you and what you can bring to the job?
The best interviews, as I have discovered subsequently, are conversations, subtly steered by the interviewer, to test you and get the responses they want. You need to be prepared.
You also need to be prepared for the unexpected. What should happen? What should be asked? Why didn’t certain things happen? These are all questions you need to keep in mind before, during and after an interview.
Now we are going to move forward 14 years. I am now 30.
Asperger Syndrome (AS) is such a recent diagnostic category in the U.S. that most of the individuals who carry it are children or adolescents. We are only now developing a fund of experience that can anticipate and meet schoolchildren’s needs; we know even less about the typical vocational functioning and other needs of adults with AS.
Since most children with AS appear to require some interventions, supports, or modifications to enable them to succeed in school, it seems reasonable to assume that many adults with AS will require at least some supports or special conditions in the workplace.
One of the most common concerns adults report to AANE is work failure.
Although many men and women with AS are succeeding in the workplace, many others have a history of being unable to get and hold on to jobs.
This article is intended to help adults with AS (and the parents, spouses, and mental health professionals who support them) to analyze employability, plan for any reasonable remediation of weaknesses, and identify the characteristics of jobs where adults with AS are most likely to feel comfortable and succeed.
For those adults for whom competitive employment is not an option, we will outline how to seek disability benefits.
In part, we will use what we have learned about how to help children with AS succeed in school, and adapt those insights and techniques to meet the needs of adults in the workplace.
AS is characterized by three clusters of symptoms or general kinds of difficulties that can directly impact employment:
Difficulties understanding social intercourse (theory of mind).
Differences in “executive function” (organizational skills) and cognition/information-processing skills, such as difficulty appreciating the “big picture” (“central coherence”).
Just as each cluster of symptoms often necessitates accommodations for a student with AS in school, similar accommodations may determine the difference between comfort and catastrophe on the job for an adult employee with AS. Let’s look at these three areas individually.
In the classroom, many children with AS become over-aroused when their senses are flooded by noise, flickering lights, or other triggers. They may feel anxiety or even panic, and react with tantrums. Often they require some accommodations to reduce sensory stimulation, such as sitting at a desk placed against a wall or at some distance from other students. They may wear headphones, or have special permission to leave the classroom to compose themselves in a “safe place,” such as a resource room or the school library.
Workplaces differ greatly in their general sensory load and in their flexibility about worker movement. Obviously, success for AS individuals is more likely in workplaces that are quiet, predictable, and allow frequent brief retreats from social demands, noise, etc.
Aspergers101 presents: Dr. Temple Grandin Tips for Interviewing Success
Statistically, 75% of persons diagnosed with High Functioning Autism / Asperger Syndrome are either under or unemployed. This is a travesty for them, their families, society and businesses. These staggering numbers cannot be ignored! There are various reasons for unemployment mainly the challenges that come with autism such as sensory sensitivities and workplace social expectations.
However, alongside challenges, there are many positive traits such as:
Ability to focus intensely for long periods
Enhanced learning ability
Deep knowledge of an obscure or difficult subject resulting in success scholastically and professionally when channeled.
Honest & hard workers who make for excellent employees when painstaking & methodical analysis are required.
Aspergers101 is proud to offer our readers suggested ways to overcome employment challenges, specifically the interview process. Dr. Temple Grandin is known worldwide for her successes with invention but in order to get to that plateau, she had to self test ways to get her foot in the employment door. As a person diagnosed with Autism, Temple share those personal techniques and interview skills below.
Don’t go into an interview cold turkey…prepare a well thought out presentation!
Neatly show your work, presentations, articles, etc.
In my 20 plus years of experience I have found that every student is different and every employer is different. This question cannot be answered in one broad answer, we are all very different. In this blog entry, I will give an example of what has worked in my position as an Autism Specialist, Job Developer and Advocate.
Billy is 16 years old and has been in a secluded classroom for 12 years. In this self-contained classroom, he is very quiet and does not feel he is like anyone else. In the cafeteria or during breaks he is made fun of and bullied due to his awkward gait, thick glasses and because he tends to keep his head down. He has very little self-esteem or self – confidence. He does not share this with anyone because he does not want to bring any undue attention to himself. Both of his parents work 40 hours a week and allow their son to come home and play video games in his room every evening. He is also allowed to eat his meals in his room each night.
Now Billy is 18. His parents would like for him to move out, get his own apartment and get a JOB.
Parents must understand that no matter how intelligent your son or daughter is if he or she does not get exposure and experience at an early age the barriers to the real world of work will take longer to overcome.
Now that Billy is 18 they are searching for resources, making phone calls and calling everyone in the Special Education department for assistance in meeting these goals.
The parents never really attended Billy’s ARD meetings together and only listened on the phone due to their work schedules. Billy was assigned a placement specialist to assist with and solve with what we call barriers to employment. The student is lost, confused and scared. He has been enabled in the contained classroom for many years and was able to isolate in his room and play video games with no chores or expectations.
Placement Specialist must first:
Establish a trusting rapport with student.
Engage with the student and go out in the community to see what volunteer or work sites are near his home.
Obtain transferrable skills that would assist with accountability and self-confidence. Learn what is socially appropriate and inappropriate.
Note that the time frame to overcome all barriers is different for each of your children.
Your ideal timeline and the reality of how long this process will take depends on the severity of barriers we must overcome to obtain gainful employment. It is our job as parents to not enable our child and to be involved in this process. To be successful in the real world of work these skills must be taught and reiterated at home before they become barriers. Parents must understand that no matter how intelligent your son or daughter is if he or she does not get exposure and experience at an early age the barriers to the real world of work will take longer to overcome.
by Raeme Bosquez-Greer/Job Adventures
Transferable Skills: Skills developed in one situation which can be transferred to another situation. They are sometimes called generic, soft or key skills
Accountability: The fact or condition of being accountable; responsibility.
What kind of agencies are out there to connect me, and my child’s skills, to a potential employer?
My name is Raeme Bosquez-Greer. I have been an Employment Specialist for the most challenging students for over 20 years. Challenging in my vocabulary means that they are harder to place in a competitive employment setting.
All states and cities have agencies similar to the Texas Workforce Commision, a department of rehabilitation and Alamo Area Council of Governments, which I’ll refer to as “The Agencies” for the remainder of this blog. These are the main agencies the parents of a 15+ year old student can go to for their first steps in seeking training, job developing and employment. This umbrella of agencies contracts third party providers to complete services. These providers, like myself, specialize in a variety of disabilities including Autism and Neurodevelopmental challenges. We are paid commission for the services that we provide.
The Agencies mentioned above will educate you regarding all the services they offer either themselves or through the 3rd party providers. They will give you a list of providers to select from. You call the providers on the list and interview them with questions specific to your son or daughters needs and you select the provider that you want to work with.
The agency will give you example questions but you can also ask your own based on what best fits your child.
Example questions you might want to focus on are:
How long have you worked in the field of vocational rehabilitation?
What is your success rate with students with Autism or related challenges?
What are your credentials?
Describe your most challenging case and did you have a positive outcome?
What are the most common barriers to overcome for my son or daughter to become successfully employed?
For the state agencies, a student can begin the paperwork process as early as 15 years old. A vocational representative is required to be at the high school a minimum of once a week. I recommend you contact your child’s case manager frequently and ask to make an appointment with their appointed vocational representative. Start services early so that your child has time to learn the skills that they need and overcome any barriers by the time they graduate.