Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Career Strategies for Students with Aspergers (Autism Spectrum Disorder)

Before I present some of the best practices presented at the recent conference I attended on career strategies for students on the autism spectrum, let me make a few disclaimers. First, I am by no means an expert (or even experienced) in this field. Additionally, as our excellent presenters pointed out, when you meet one student with ASD, you’ve met one student with ASD. That being said, these practices may work for some students and not for others, but isn’t that true for our nuero-typical clients as well? Anyhow, here’s what I learned:

Infuse Academics with Employment
  • Integrate vocational experiences into students’ academics as early as high school to allow students to experience the workplace, reflect on their experiences, and learn appropriate workplace interactions.
Provide Visual Aids
  • Have handouts or written materials that cover and/or review the points you’re making during the conversation. Useful for lots of students, really.
Be Explicit
  • Because students with ASD do not learn intuitively, it is very important that we as career counselors are explicit with our directions. We cannot expect these clients to pick up on our social cues or nuanced suggestions, we’ve got to be explicit when counseling these students on how to behave, act, and market themselves. Additionally, help students with ASD to dissect the jobs they are working in or applying for. What will be the tasks, the social requirements, and physical environments related to this position. Help students to prepare fully, and practice reacting to, as well as acting in these positions.
Don’t Modify Content, Modify Process
  • Students with ASD can be smart. Sometimes really smart. Don’t change the content you’re delivering, rather shift the way you deliver it. See above points for more on this.
Know Your Resources
  • Both at the institution you work at, and in the community. At the end of the day, there’s only so much that we as career counselors and university educators can do. We’re not mental health counselors and perhaps unqualified to provide the intensive services some students with ASD might need. Be in touch with disability services coordinator, as well as have some referrals handy from local non-profits or other relevant services providers.
Finally, our presenters made some recommendations for students with ASD on the job market. They advised us to help our clients look for positions that have all or some of the following elements:

  • Students with ASD to be most successful in environments that have clear and consistent rules. This could include rules regarding acceptable dress, hours, breaks, and activities.
Do Not Require an In-Person Interview
  • Students with ASD do not interview well. Of course, finagling a job without an interview will be a challenge, which is probably why our presenters suggested making the most of family and personal connections when possible. As far as working with ASD clients, our presenters suggested utilizing Skype during mock interviews, as opposed to face-to-face.

No comments:

Post a Comment