Temple Grandin Explains: Choosing the Right Job for People with ASD

Jobs need to be chosen that make use of the strengths of people with Autism or Asperger’s syndrome. Both high and low functioning people have very poor short-term working memory, but they often have a better long-term memory than most neurotypicals. I have great difficulty with tasks that put high demands on short-term working memory. I cannot handle multiple tasks at the same time.

employment, jobs

Table 1 is a list of BAD jobs that I would have great difficulty doing.

Table 2 is a list of easy jobs for a visual thinker like me.

I have difficulty doing abstract math such as algebra and most of the jobs on Table 2 do not require complex math. Many of the visual thinking jobs would also be good for people with dyslexia.

The visual thinking jobs on Table 2 put very little demand on fast processing of information in short-term working memory. They would fully utilize my visual thinking and large long-term memory. Table 3 is a list of jobs that non-visual thinkers who are good with numbers, facts and music could do easily.

They also put low demands on short-term working memory and utilize an excellent long-term memory. Table 4 shows jobs that lower functioning people with autism could do well. For all types of autism and Asperger’s syndrome, demands on short-term working memory must be kept low. If I were a computer, I would have a huge hard drive that could hold 10 times as much information as an ordinary computer but my processor chip would be small.

To use 1999 computer terminology, I have a 1000 gigabyte hard drive and a little 286 processor. Neurotypicals may have only 10 gigabytes of disc space on their hard drive and a Pentium for a processor. I cannot do two or three things at once.

Some job tips for people with Autism or Asperger’s syndrome:

  • Jobs should have a well-defined goal or endpoint.
  • Sell your work, not your personality. Make a portfolio of your work.
  • The boss must recognize your social limitations.

It is important that high functioning autistics and Asperger’s syndrome people pick a college major in an area where they can get jobs. Computer science is a good choice because it is very likely that many of the best programmers have either Asperger’s syndrome or some of its traits. Other good majors are: accounting, engineering, library science, and art with an emphasis on commercial art and drafting. One could major in library science with a minor in history, but the library science degree makes it easier to get a good job.

Some individuals, while they are still in high school, should be encouraged to take courses at a local college in drafting, computer programming or commercial art. This will help keep them motivated and serve as a refuge from teasing.

Families with low income may be wondering how they can afford computers for their child to learn programming or computer aided drafting. Used computers can often be obtained for free or at a very low cost when a business or an engineering company upgrades their equipment.

Many people do not realize that there are many usable older computers sitting in storerooms at schools, banks, factories and other businesses. It will not be the latest new thing, but it is more than adequate for a student to learn on.

In conclusion: a person with Asperger’s syndrome or autism has to compensate for poor social skills by making themselves so good in a specialized field that people will be willing to “buy” their skill even though social skills are poor.

This is why making a portfolio of your work is so important. You need to learn a few social survival skills, but you will make friends at work by sharing your shared interest with the other people who work in your specialty. My social life is almost all work related. I am friends with people I do interesting work with.


Table 1

Bad Jobs for People with High Functioning Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome: Jobs that require high demands on short-term working memory

  • Cashier — making change quickly puts too much demand on short-term working memory
  • Short order cook — Have to keep track of many orders and cook many different things at the same time
  • Waitress — Especially difficult if have to keep track of many different tables
  • Casino dealer — Too many things to keep track of
  • Taxi dispatcher — Too many things to keep track of
  • Taking oral dictation — Difficult due to auditory processing problems
  • Airline ticket agent — Deal with angry people when flights are cancelled
  • Future market trader — Totally impossible
  • Air traffic controller — Information overload and stress
  • Receptionist and telephone operator — Would have problems when the switch board got busy

Table 2

Good Jobs for Visual Thinkers

  • Computer programming — Wide-open field with many jobs available especially in industrial automation, software design, business computers, communications and network systems
  • Drafting — Engineering drawings and computer aided drafting. This job can offer many opportunities. Drafting is an excellent portal of entry for many interesting technical jobs. I know people who started out at a company doing drafting and then moved into designing and laying out entire factories. To become really skilled at drafting, one needs to learn how to draw by hand first. I have observed that most of the people who draw beautiful drawings on a computer learned to draw by hand first. People who never learn to draw by hand first tend to leave important details out of their drawings.
  • Commercial art — Advertising and magazine layout can be done as freelance work
  • Photography — Still and video, TV cameraman can be done as freelance work
  • Equipment designing — Many industries, often a person starts as a draftsman and then moves into designing factory equipment
  • Animal trainer or veterinary technician — Dog obedience trainer, behavior problem consultant
  • Automobile mechanic — Can visualize how the entire car works
  • Computer-troubleshooter and repair — Can visualize problems in computers and networks
  • Small appliance and lawnmower repair — Can make a nice local business
  • Handcrafts of many different types such as wood carving, jewelry making, ceramics, etc.
  • Laboratory technician — Who modifies and builds specialized lab equipment
  • Web page design — Find a good niche market can be done as freelance work
  • Building trades — Carpenter or welder. These jobs make good use of visual skills but some people will not be able to do them well due to motor and coordination problems.
  • Video game designer — Stay out of this field. Jobs are scarce and the field is overcrowded. There are many more jobs in industrial, communications business and software design computer programming. Another bad thing about this job is exposure to violent images.
  • Computer animation — Visual thinkers would be very good at this field, but there is more competition in this field than in business or industrial computer programming. Businesses are recruiting immigrants from overseas because there is a shortage of good programmers in business and industrial fields.
  • Building maintenance — Fixes broken pipes, windows and other things in an apartment complex, hotel or office building
  • Factory maintenance — Repairs and fixes factory equipment

Table 3

Good Jobs for Non-Visual Thinkers: Those who are good at math, music or facts

  • Accounting — Get very good in a specialized field such as income taxes
  • Library science — reference librarian. Help people find information in the library or on the Internet.
  • Computer programming — Less visual types can be done as freelance work
  • Engineering — Electrical, electronic and chemical engineering
  • Journalist — Very accurate facts, can be done as freelance
  • Copy editor — Corrects manuscripts. Many people freelance for larger publishers
  • Taxi driver — Knows where every street is
  • Inventory control — Keeps track of merchandise stocked in a store
  • Tuning pianos and other musical instruments, can be done as freelance work
  • Laboratory technician — Running laboratory equipment
  • Bank Teller — Very accurate money counting, much less demand on short-term working memory than a busy cashier who mostly makes change quickly
  • Clerk and filing jobs — knows where every file is
  • Telemarketing — Get to repeat the same thing over and over, selling on the telephone. Noisy environment may be a problem. Telephone sales avoids many social problems.
  • Statistician — Work in many different fields such as research, census bureau, industrial quality control, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, etc.
  • Physicist or mathematician — There are very few jobs in these fields. Only the very brilliant can get and keep jobs. Jobs are much more plentiful in computer programming and accounting.

Table 4

Good Jobs for Nonverbal People with Autism or People with Poor Verbal Skills

  • Reshelving library books — Can memorize the entire numbering system and shelf locations
  • Factory assembly work — Especially if the environment is quiet
  • Copy shop — Running photocopies. Printing jobs should be lined up by somebody else
  • Janitor jobs — Cleaning floors, toilets, windows and offices
  • Restocking shelves — In many types of stores
  • Recycling plant — Sorting jobs
  • Warehouse — Loading trucks, stacking boxes
  • Lawn and garden work — Mowing lawns and landscaping work
  • Data entry — If the person has fine motor problems, this would be a bad job
  • Fast food restaurant — Cleaning and cooking jobs with little demand on short-term memory
  • Plant care — Water plants in a large office building

Temple Grandin, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA
(November, 1999)

This article was written in 1999 by the Assistant Professor at Colorado State University Dr. Temple Grandin. It is still very relevant today as it applies to job seekers who are on the autism spectrum. As published at: Indiana Institute on Disability and Community 

Dr. Temple Grandin on Driving with Autism: Practice!

Though driving with an Autism diagnosis is not for everyone, many do decide to obtain their driver license and go on to live independent lives. Aspergers101 teamed with Dr. Temple Grandin to provide helpful information when considering if driving is for you, or your teen.

Long before driver education, Temple suggests first mastering your skills by practicing on a bicycle (coordination, motor skills). Then tackle driving in a safe remote area such as the country or large parking lot. You’ll begin mastering such challenging tasks, such as multi-tasking, prior to any driving on congested roadways.

One suggestion she has is that before you take a driver education course, you need to find a safe place and practice, and after that, practice even more! Getting the ‘knack’ of driving includes working on your coordination, motor skills, and multi-tasking which all come into play when learning to drive, even more so for those on the autism spectrum.

Anxiety can often be reduced (for the driver with Autism) by lots of driving practice in a safe remote location.  

– Dr. Temple Grandin

Once you’ve mastered working the brake, blinker, gas and other essential tasks while driving, you’ll then be ready to be thrown into a group/driver education training.

UNDERSTANDING HIGH-FUNCTIONING AUTISM/ASPERGER SYNDROME

Below are excerpts taken from interviews for the documentary, Coping to Excelling: Solutions for school-aged children diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism or Aspergers Syndrome. We hope this aids you in your on-going quest seeking information on HFA and AS as well as the knowledge you are not alone in your plight to succeed under the diagnosis. 


An amazing discovery still being understood and uncovered today involves a revolutionary find in the human mind. Over 50 years ago, Austrian pediatrician, Hans Asperger, revealed to the medical and scientific community a form of high-functioning Autism later named Asperger Syndrome. These people have always been viewed as eccentric or odd displaying repetitive behaviors and totally lacking in their social skills. The disgusted and disapproving looks you and your child may be receiving when in public or with extended family only adds to the frustration and pain.

I know. My name is Jennifer Allen and my son, Sam has Asperger Syndrome. The challenges may be great, but so can be the results. Pooled information from experts in the field of Autism is provided below so we, as parents, can successfully guide our child through a social and judgmental world.

The High- Functioning Autistic or Asperger brain is different, in its function and in its anatomy. This is not a choice the child makes. In other
words, it’s not bad parenting nor bad behavior, they are wired
differently! -Dr. Janessa Manning

Medical reports reveal a profound discovery in the brain of those with High-Functioning Autism. Studies with MRI imaging document an actual physical difference in some areas of the autistic brain verses that of a neuro-typical brain. Also the neurological pathways fire differently in Asperger patients than that of a typical brain function.

Bottom line, High-Functioning Autistic and Aspergers diagnosed individuals receive their gifts and struggles from a physical and medical basis not behavioral, as you may have been pressured to believe.

So once we understand from whence the challenges occur then we can begin to lead them on the path from Coping to Excelling. –Jennifer Allen

Dr. Temple Grandin

According to Dr. Temple Grandin: “I want to emphasize that Asperger’s and Autism are not separate conditions. Asperger’s is just the milder end of the continuum. There’s no black and white dividing line between a mild case of autism and geek and nerd. They are the same thing. It is a continuum of traits. The mind can either develop to be more thinking and cognitive or it can be developed to be more social. There’s a point where it just merges into part of your personality.”

The two conditions have very few differences, and research proves which treatments are relevant to High Functioning Autism and also applicable to Aspergers Syndrome. Thus both disorders are combined and the treatments suggested should serve your child well.

It is a lifelong condition and occurs in boys four times as often as girls. Because “Aspie” children are not mentally slow, doctors usually do not diagnose them until they are in the early elementary school grades.

In order to be diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, a person must show two of these 4 traits:

  1. “Marked impairment” regarding nonverbal social cues (doesn’t make eye contact, doesn’t understand others’ body language, etc);
  2. Failure to make friends;
  3. Lack of appropriate social and emotional responses to others
  4. Inability to spontaneously share enjoyment, interests and achievements with other people.

In addition, the person must show one of these 4 behaviors:

  1. An abnormal and intense interest in one subject;
  2. Adherence to a strict set of rules, routines and rituals;
  3. Repetition of certain mannerisms like hand flapping, hair twisting or even whole body movements;
  4. An obsession in the parts or mechanics of objects.

Experts agree that once the shock of having an Autistic Child has waned, it’s time to start accepting and getting pro-active on your child’s behalf.


William H. “Billy” Edwards, MS, BCBA 

Behavioral Specialist, Billy Edwards, created the following three-step strategy for getting proactive.

  1. Give yourself the permission to grieve about it because it’s okay.
  2. The second step is to begin finding resources and the first resource you look for is probably what parent support mechanisms exist, and
  3. The third component of that would be who are the professionals that you are going to surround yourself with and that are going to help guide you?
  4. Explaining the diagnosis to your child will be easier for you and for them to accept the younger they are. Take a positive approach by listing the positive characteristics as well as having a plan of action for the more challenging ones. This will make the step easier.

Autism and My Path Through Life: Presented by Dr. Temple Grandin

A Gift for You!

Do we have a big gift for you! Dr. Temple Grandin has graciously given her permission to offer, for a limited time, access to her talk at the Aspergers101 recent event in San Antonio, “Unlocking the Potential: An Evening with Dr. Temple Grandin”. You’ll have a front row seat to her speech: “Autism and My Path Through Life” recorded April 19th 2018 at the San Antonio Pearl Stable. The runtime 48:54 and we feel certain you will want to view it more than once!

(Click anywhere on this banner to view Dr. Grandin Speech)

Thursday, April 19th was a resounding success…an evening that truly made a difference!

“It felt very intimate, as if she truly knew that so many people in the audience were either relating to her speech or appreciating her wisdom. You could hear a pin drop and that entire audience (including myself) was absolutely spellbound.” -Dr. Jane Lynch/UTHSC

We Hope You Enjoy Viewing Our Powerful Production of the Inspirational Dr. Temple Grandin! With your kind donation Aspergers101 (501c3 non-profit) will be able to continue providing free daily content from pioneers blazing the autism trail in medicine, education, policies and on the homefront.

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Unlocking the Potential: A Powerhouse of Direction

Part 1: Series on Understanding and Advancing Autism

Occasionally, if not rarely,  you come upon greatness. You are in the presence of a person, an idea or a creation that inspires you to the core and will make such a difference in your thinking that it changes the trajectory of your life’s path. This type of greatness occured for a roomful of people last week at an event Aspergers101 hosted in San Antonio Texas.  Unlocking the Potential: An Evening with Dr. Temple Grandin proved successful by the powerhouse line-up of speakers. Over the course of the next several weeks, Aspergers101 will share much of the knowledge and encouragement delivered from the podium by these speakers but we wanted to offer a glimpse into the evening with this introductory blog.
An overview of the evening “take-aways” all followed the theme of the evening, Unlocking the Potential which was consistent with each speaker that approached the podium. Addressing the challenges that come with the Autism diagnosis is a must however, rethinking the potential and putting that potential into it’s unique purpose was the resounding message through the various perspectives of the speakers.
The evening was hosted by Jennifer Allen and son Samuel Allen offering personal stories, an update on the statewide “Driving with Autism” program and keeping the podium synchronized speaker to speaker.

Message From the Texas State Capitol

Kicking of the evening was Ron Lucey, the (powerhouse) Executive Director of the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities. His message of support for all disabilities was only surpassed by his focus on our citizens diagnosed with Autism and improving conditions for employment in the state of Texas.  This is a man of action. Ron Lucey works, no fights, on behalf of citizens with disabilities.
He made it clear that it’s the Mom’s who make

Ron Lucey/Executive Director Texas Governors Committee on People with Disabilities (l) Jennifer Allen/Founder Aspergers101 (r)

things happen and he and his committee are there to support them in their mission for equality.  He did read a proclamation made recently by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, declaring April Austim Awareness Month in the State of Texas. This was presented to Jennifer Allen with Aspergers101 at the end of his talk.
Following Ron was a brief video from speaker & author Dr. Gail Saltz. Dr. Saltz recently wrote ‘The Power of Different’ and included much of that book in her presentation. From a medical statepoint, the brain is wired differently for those on the autism spectrum and the ‘gifts’ that are unique to that brain are the gifts humankind is lucky to have. It’s these specialized talents that we must utilize for the their future and ours. Here you can view the message from Dr. Saltz in it’s entirety.

 

 Revolutionary Employment Program Introduced

The next speaker super charged the evening with the topic of employing those with Autism. Tina James is the Chief People Officer of one of the top-rated businesses in America today. H-E-B Grocery is a giant  grocery chain in the state of Texas and is swifty becoming the template for all business structures as they clearly place people first. When Tina spoke of a new program H-E-B is premiering called, Bridges, she spoke from her heart. Tina has a son on the spectrum and her passion for equality in employment literally set the audience on the edge of their seats!

Tina James/Chief People Officer H-E-B

Bridges launched last summer with an internship offered strictly for those with an autism/asperger diagnosis, in the coveted I.T. Department. The rate of pay was not the standard national average of  $8/hr but double that rate…autism or not! This is only the beginning of what proves to be a smarter way of employment: hiring people for their abilities while removing the obstacles then advancing them up the ladder into the company that continuously grows off the charts. The ovation with this proactive approach to employment was only paralleled by the next speaker.

The Keynote Address: Dr. Temple Grandin

The keynote address from Temple Grandin was supercharged.

Unlocking the Potential: A Day with Dr. Temple Grandin

Part 1: Driving with Autism: Luncheon with SAPD

Last week Aspergers101 was proud to host a day of Autism awareness and enlightenment in San Antonio Texas. First we co-hosted a luncheon alongside San Antonio Chief of Police, William McManus regarding the
Driving with Autism statewide initiative. Over 25 law enforcement agencies were represented as well as city officials.  All came together to hear about the new Texas driver license restriction code, Communication Impediment with a Peace Officer and how that may look in a pull-over scenario. Though Dr. Grandin’s plane was delayed, she made her entrance to speak to the officers just as the luncheon drew to a close..a great way to end on a high note!


SA Police Chief William McManus (R) discusses Driving with Autism with Aspergers101 Senior Editor Gabriela Lemos (L)

Jennifer and Samuel Allen present understanding Autism and those with a communication challenge.

Dr. Temple Grandin stands alongside SAPD law enforcement


Jennifer Allen and Samuel Allen presented the impact of the Autistic Brain when encountering drivers displaying the new code. Below lists some of the topics covered to the full house of law enforcement officers:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Temple Grandin spoke on the importance of allowing the person with Autism the time to respond. “A person with a communication impediment is like a computer that slowly scrolls to catch up. You’ve got to allow them time respond when confronted with an officer of the law.”

 

Asperger Syndrome – An Overview

Asperger Syndrome is one of several previously separate subtypes of autism that were folded into the single diagnosis autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with the publication of the DSM-5 diagnostic manual in 2013.

Spectrum, Autism, Aspergers

The following behaviors are often associated with Asperger Syndrome. However, they are seldom all present in any one individual and vary widely in degree:

  • limited or inappropriate social interactions
  • “robotic” or repetitive speech
  • challenges with nonverbal communication (gestures, facial    expression, etc.) coupled with average to above average verbal skills
  • tendency to discuss self rather than others

Dr. Temple Grandin: Discipline is Key

Dr. Temple Grandin on DISCIPLINE

“I cannot emphasize the importB9315403164Z.1_20141208230949_000_GLQ9BRDPJ.1-0ance of consistency.  When I was in elementary school, the penalty for having a tantrum was to have no TV for one night.  That was the rule and it was always enforced.  It is essential for the rules to be consistent at BOTH home and school. Parents and teachers must work together otherwise the child may manipulate the parent against the teacher and vice versa.  Kids need to learn that “No” means No and be rewarded when they do things right.  You also need to determine if a behavior problem is caused by pain or sensory over sensitivity.  Hidden painful medical problems must be ruled out.  Some common ones are – acid reflex (heartburn), constipation, yeast infections, toothaches, and earaches.  A child may fear going into a room where a smoke alarm had previously gone off, because it hurt his/hear ears.  After these biological causes of behavior problems are ruled out, then the behavioral motivation can be figured out.

The three main behavioral causes of tantrums and other problems behaviors are:

  • Get attention
  • Frustration because communication is difficult
  • Escape from a task

Each one of these motivators needs to be handled in a different way.  Often the best way to handle behaviors motivated for attention getting is to ignore it.  If a non-verbal child is frustrated because he/she cannot communicate, he/she should be given a means to communicate, such as a picture board or picture exchange.  There are many new apps available for I Pads and other tablets for communication.  If the child is trying to escape from a task, you need to make sure the task is not stupid.  An example of a stupid task would be making a brilliant 8-year-old do baby math drills.  He/she should be given the more advanced math book.

All children in the autism spectrum should be expected to do daily living tasks that they are capable of doing.  Some examples are making their bed, being on time for the school bus or helping with household chores.  When I was a child, I was expected to have good table manners and to say “please” and “thank you.”  When I made a mistake with table manners, mother did not say No. She told me the correct behavior.  For example if I ate mashed potatoes with my fingers, she said, “No, use your fork.”  She gave me the instruction, instead of just saying NO.”

-Dr. Temple Grandin

The above and other Q & A from Dr. Temple Grandin was provided by is posted at:  http://www.templegrandin.com/faq.html 

Today’s discussion with Dr. Temple Grandin

Automation puts jobs in peril yet presents opportunity!

While waiting during a flight delay, Dr. Temple Grandin who is well known for her inventions with livestock handling facilities, best-selling author  and advocate on behalf of those with Autism, granted me her time over the phone today. Among the myriad of topics discussed was her strong recommendation for me to read today’s headline published in USA Today. The headline reads: AUTOMATION IS THE GREATEST THREAT TO THE ECONOMY, BUT MAY ALSO BE ITS BIGGEST OPPORTUNITY. Temple went on to say that for those with a specialized interests, who embrace robotics, artificial intelligence and automation may find themselves in a good position within our future workplace.

Within the USA Today article, Bill Brennan, audit transformation leader for PricewaterhouseCoopers, states that he is now hiring employees with backgrounds in science, technology and engineering. “We need those individuals to help us as we get into data analysis, analytics, data security, cloud computing. The future employee is going to have a combination of those skills,” Brennan said.

A robotic arm removes a section of wire from a computerized two-dimensional bending machine before carrying it to an automated welder at Marlin Steel in Baltimore, which has embraced automation to remain competitive with foreign manufacturers. (Photo: Jasper Colt, USA TODAY)

Dr Grandin said this article is a must-read for anyone on the Autism Spectrum or with Asperger Syndrome for many of these job availabilities will match their skills set. Upon her encouragement, we’ve posted the article for you to read below.

Special report: Automation puts jobs in peril AUTOMATION IS THE GREATEST THREAT TO THE ECONOMY, BUT MAY ALSO BE ITS BIGGEST OPPORTUNITY. Nathan Bomey , USA TODAY

by: Jennifer Allen