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.

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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.

Communicating to an Interviewer About Your Diagnosis

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Q: How should one go about communicating to an interviewer a brief summary of the world of Asperger’s Syndrome?

This is a really great question. There is a saying that goes: if you’ve met one person with Aspergers . . . you’ve met one person with Aspergers. I believe this statement is also true of how we communicate Asperger’s syndrome in the workplace.

As I have referenced in previous posts, it is important to do an inventory assessment of what skills and abilities you can bring to the workplace. The reason this is done is so that you can tell an employer exactly what you have to offer them.

It is also best to tell the employer what you need to be successful, and oftentimes I have found that the employer appreciates when expectations are set. When I have gone to interviews with my young adults with Asperger’s, I usually (if they are comfortable with it) go to talk to the interviewer beforehand, and give a brief explanation of that person’s communication style and needs so that expectations are set for the interview.

Using Informational Interviewing in Your Job Search

Employment with Aspergers

Now that we have worked on our one minute commercial, a script for networking, and learned about cold calling, let’s go over informational interviewing.

Informational Interview

Informational interviewing is an important tool to use with all three practices we have discussed. Informational interviewing is the act of gathering information about the career field, and specific companies you may want to work for. These are usually informal interviews that take place inside a company that you have an interest in.

Using “Cold Calling” to Get Information on Possible Employment

Cold calling is: calling up a person or business and informing them that you are interested in employment. This can sound intimidating, but it can be very effective for opening the doors to the hidden job market we discussed previously.

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Cold calling allows you to possibly learn about a job that is not yet posted. For individuals with Aspergers/HFA it could seem very daunting to call a stranger on the phone and ask for a job. Some individuals never will be comfortable with this part of the job search, and that is okay. Other individuals love the initial autonomy of it.

For individuals with Aspergers/HFA here are some tips we utilize to help reduce fears when cold calling:

An Inventory Assessment for Your Personal Preferences in the Workplace

In a previous post we briefly discussed the importance of the inventory assessment in securing employment. This inventory also helps employment specialists identify an individual’s personal preferences.39551a62-167a-484b-8088-ab65b3de67e9

As you know, Aspergers manifests itself uniquely to each person, so employment specialists have to know which types of stimuli will be helpful, and which will be hurtful.

Is the individual sensitive to noise? Are they comfortable working outdoors? Can they tolerate working in a closed space for an eight-hour shift? What are their social tolerances? Essentially, we need to understand if an individual is hypo-sensitive or hypersensitive. Knowing the answers to these questions in advance help to ensure future success.

Deciding if a Job is Right For You: Work Assessment

If you were given the chance to work at a job you were interested in for a few hours to assess your skills and abilities, and to decide if you are comfortable and really enjoy it before starting the application process would you do it?

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This is called a work assessment, and it is imperative to future success. Vocational rehabilitation offices offer these kinds of important services for individuals with Asperger’s. A work assessment also work in tandem with the inventory assessments.

The Hidden Job Market

Aspergers Employment

Do you know the difference between the hidden job market versus the advertised job market?

People at Work

The majority of individuals are unaware that a hidden job market exists. The hidden job market includes jobs that are not formally announced on the Internet, the companies website or even by a “now hiring” sign. The hidden job market is often used by the employer to hire someone within their network or their associate’s networks. According to statistics, 80 percent of all jobs are never advertised(Uncovering the hidden job market by Martin Lieberman)

So how does this affect individuals with Asperger’s/HFA?

What Kind of Job Should you Choose Based on Your Learning Type?

As important as it is to understand your learning type, it is also important to know what different types of job you may do well at if you are unsure where to start looking. Keep in mind that everyone is different, and their experiences are not the same. This is not an inclusive list, and is written specifically for individuals with Aspergers/HFA.

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It is also very important to know that just because you have an interest in a certain area does not mean there is an economy where you live to support it. I would also suggest doing research about the city you live in and the outlook for that type of job.

In November 1999 Temple Grandin wrote a short essay on choosing the right job. Here is a part of the essay:

“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 normal people. I have great difficulty with tasks that put high demands on short-term working memory.”

Advertising Yourself: The Commercial

A one-minute commercial can set the tone for any networking opportunity, cold calling, or interview. It is important to have something that sets you apart because, as I discussed last week, a majority of the job market is hidden. Although it can be daunting to develop a commercial…a polished one-minute speech can give you the opportunity to tell someone about your skills, and what type of opportunity you are looking for.

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This is an important step to take before beginning cold calling, sending out resumes, and interviewing, because it allows the individual time to assess their skills and pick out what is important to highlight. So how do you go about completing an elevator speech? I will outline a few simple steps that we have found effective that will help you work on yours. 

Aspergers Individuals Can Become Great Leaders, Despite Their Challenges. Part 2: Overcoming Challenges

How to overcome personal challenges

This is Part 2 of a two-part article by Reese Eskridge on the topic of building leadership skills. You can read Part 1 here.

Team leader

  • I am not competent enough about role(s)/inexperienced in creating and running events or activities: Be yourself and start with what you know you can do, create something to promote it and to enable others to use it; identify an issue or interesting concept and think about a purpose that will serve the greater good; Take opportunities and think about how you can excel in each role you play.
  • I do not understand what message(s) to convey… Ask yourself many questions and try to answer as many potential questions as possible (i.e. what would they like to know about…? How would they react if…?).
  • I have a problem with perfectionism and fear of failure… If you have challenges, thoroughly examine the challenge and work around it to achieve your purpose as the leader; what are the lessons to learn from each challenge (use keywords).
  • I am too fixated on minor or irrelevant details or do not know most important details; Digresses into restricted interests, rather than piques follower’s interest and serves followers’ best interests… Establish structure in a manner that ensures that you do not miss any important details; then, you can take control of a given situation by speaking with all forms of credibility.
  • I am too shy to speak up when needed; there is too much pressure… Recruit help where and when you need it the most, even if it means developing just yourself, and plan out and organize those resources to maximize their effectiveness; in other words, get those resources to do exactly what you want them to do. Develop passion in what you do or plan to do and the rest will come naturally.
  • I do not feel like I can do this independently… Don’t sweat it! Try to develop abilities to do assortments of tasks that you must accomplish and get guidance as necessary; do not get guidance if you can easily figure out tasks at hand; get help when you absolutely cannot do something yourself; learn team building strategies for this.
  • I am not confident in having a positive influence… Just remember that during an organized event, people are there to listen to you and do what you say, although it is better to give recommendations and to delegate responsibilities fairly, rather than simply take over. Keep it positive every step of the way and devise strategies when the going gets tough for anything. Ask yourself the potential solution to a problem when it arises and keep calm; be a role model by acting like the person you want them to act like.
  • I have poor organizational skills… Do not hesitate to consult with other people and resources that specifically address this. Also ask yourself, how can I best keep track of materials in general. Obtain folders, files, etc. for documents and a calendar or calendar book in which you can write down the dates and times of upcoming events, meetings, etc. Planning is the single best strategy when you or your followers are disorganized or disoriented. Make sure that everybody involved has at least one role and delegate by each person’s strengths and willingness to participate in that role. Ask who wants what and go from there.

By Reese Eskridge