Jobs Working with Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder
In today’s world, as more and more individuals are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder around the world, it is becoming increasingly important to have early intervention in the lives of individuals with autism, their families, and communities affected. There has been a marked increase in this issue over the past few years. Although positive changes in autism awareness are probably the cause of this issue, there is concern that the rate will not slow down.
For this reason, recently increasing numbers have been a glimmer of hope for anyone looking for a career involving working with individuals on the spectrum. These numbers show that there is a greater need for individuals working or willing to work in this field, and that need is likely to increase in the coming years. If you want to devote your time and energy to helping individuals with autism spectrum disorders, if you want to contribute to their development and living standards, there are great career options and the requirements to be hired to do them.
Even though working with people on the spectrum is one of the most challenging and difficult career paths you can choose, it is very rewarding and satisfactory at the same time. Due to the high prevalence of autism, it is a career path that is likely to last a lifetime. Those people who choose one of those ways can help provide the resources to give the people on the spectrum the best possible chance at a happy and successful life.
In general, psychologists, psychiatrists, pediatricians, special education teachers, occupational therapists, autism spectrum disorder specialists, social workers, and applied behavioral analysts are working with individuals with autism at any ages.
Special Education Teacher
Becoming a special education teacher is one of the most rewarding jobs that anyone can choose if the person interested in working with individuals with an autism spectrum disorder. It is one of the most well-known career opportunities. Regardless of your master’s degree, if you have a bachelor’s degree in special education, you can work with them.
Children diagnosed with autism are the group of students with special needs who have the least benefit from special education efforts in almost every part of the world. Special education teachers who will work with students on the spectrum should have general and special education knowledge and skills at the basic level.
Special education teachers are studied about children with special needs and trained to work with children with a wide range of needs. These needs may be developmental, physical, emotional or learning-based. Children with autism often need help throughout their education and their life. This means that special education teachers play an essential role in increasing independence in the learning and development of these children.
Special education teachers who will work with students with autism spectrum disorder should have the following basic qualifications:
• They should have sufficient knowledge about the characteristics and requirements of students with an autism spectrum disorder.
• They should know the methods of gaining social interaction skills (social stories, video modeling, etc.).
• They should have the ability to gain communication skills (teaching with cues, etc.).
• They should know the methods of gaining life skills that provides independence to them (activity schedules, community-based teaching, etc.).
• They should make sensory and environmental arrangements (visual strategies, routines, etc.).
• They should have positive behavioral support.
Educational studies for students with an autism spectrum disorder, especially those with Asperger syndrome, may require working in very different forms and contents. For example, many children with autism can show the fastest progress when they receive very early, one-to-one, intensive and continuous behavioral training. Or, very intensive one-to-one behavioral training within the group may be required. All of these features require that teachers who are working with students with autism have very special education and knowledge.
There are plenty of simple strategies that can be used in the home to effectively add the sensory filters that individuals with autism often require. At this point, occupational therapists are very important to this intervention.
Occupational therapists try to ensure that individuals with autism are functional outside the settings they are used to. They work to promote, maintain and develop the skills these children need. they try to ensure their active participation in life. This participation gives them better learning, self-esteem, self-confidence, independence, and social interaction.
An occupational therapist’s goal is to help those on the autism spectrum to achieve greater and more practical independence. They offer skills that will help the child gain independence. They also help to acquire these skills successfully. Even the simplest daily routines can be quite complicated for individuals with autism. Precisely in this regard, a skilled therapist can be quite helpful.
In the case of autism, an occupational therapist can deal with the simplest daily routines, as we mentioned earlier. They mostly work to improve their daily life skills, fine motor, and gross motor movements. However, their most important role is to assess the child’s sensory processing disorders and aim to work on them. In addition, children with autism are often prescribed a sensory diet and lifestyle by the occupational therapist.
Autism Spectrum Disorder Specialist
Autism spectrum disorder specialists are behavioral modification counselors who provide services to adults and children with neurobehavioral disorders on the autism spectrum. These services could be therapeutic, educational or medical. They help individuals with autism to find the services and support they need.
Depending on their professional qualifications, autism spectrum disorder specialists can work in schools, hospitals, daycare centers, elderly houses, public and private agencies. Daytime, evening, night, weekend, and on-call shifts may be required.
Most of the time, these specialists work in educational environments. They can work as a teacher, therapist, counselor, or school aid. Basically they can work everywhere in every position needed. In the end, their aim is helping students on the spectrum, improving their life within the school environment, and helping them to be successful socially and academically.
Like in every other field, there are some key skills that they need to have in order to be an autism spectrum disorder specialist. These skills include basic knowledge of psychology, therapy and counseling, active listening, social perceptiveness, effective speaking, service orientation, and reading comprehension.
Besides these essential skills, there are some additional skills that would be good to have but a must to have. For example, judgment, decision making, complex problem solving, coordination, critical thinking, and writing, databases, medical software, and presentation software.
Parents are generally feel overwhelmed and unsure. They may not know how to look for help. At this point, social workers are fantastic resources available to parents struggling with raising children with autism. They help individuals with autism and their families.
Social workers can help families when they face with the initial diagnosis and they can help assess the individual needs. They will put those families and individuals in touch with the proper agencies and help with the paperwork. Many times families feel isolated from their friends and community. In this case, they will help them to realize they are not alone.
The aim of social workers is to support the child’s family to develop the interactions and successes of a child with autism. These achievements and interactions can be psychological, institutional or social depending on the family’s need. They are trained to provide assessment and various therapies. They can help families with children with autism in finding practical services to ensure that their children are successful and the family is supported.
Social workers with the proper education can work directly with the child in a school setting to help with the special behavioral and social needs of autism. The bachelor’s degree is enough to work. On the other hand, some residential care settings hire social workers with only undergraduate degrees.
To illustrate how social workers work, let’s say the child gets diagnosed with autism in a hospital and there is a social worker in the hospital. At that moment, the social worker helps the family to express and understand their emotions very well. These emotions are mostly sadness and despair that families don’t want to admit. In this case, they help families to identify what they need now and what they will need in the long term.
Sometimes it is hard to identify autism. When the child enters the school system, symptoms could be more obvious. A social worker in the school environment works to make those diagnoses for the child. Because having an official diagnosis opens new doors and perspectives about the child. In addition, they can work with the child on the spectrum one to one. They can work on their behavioral and emotional problems, anger management and coping skills. They try to teach them how to get along with other people and provide tools.
There is a misunderstanding about social works in child welfare agencies. They have wrongfully been cast as the bad guy who takes children away from their parents. Many families are scared to reach out to child welfare agencies for help because they are fearful that they may lose control of the situation and they may lose their children. But the reality is different obviously. It is that social workers are there to help the parents and the child in a variety of ways. In addition, they can help coordinate many other services such as housing assistance, food stamps, proper childcare for children with autism, parenting classes, and much more.
Applied Behavior Analyst
At the basic level, an applied behavior analyst is a psychologist. They specialize in observing the links between a child with autism’s behavior and his/her environment in order to bring about behavioral changes.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is described as the golden standard for autism treatment. It is one of the most common and successful systems of autism treatment. It is very simple compared to other treatment methods. It is a system of rewards and consequences to teach desired behaviors.
An applied behavior analyst works in groups, in families, and one-on-one with individuals on the autism spectrum to positively reinforce behaviors that ultimately grant greater skills and increased independence. They can work directly with individuals in a therapeutic setting, providing guidance and structure for those with several disorders, from autism spectrum disorders to people with an antisocial personality disorder, bipolar depression, and other emotional complications.
If someone would like to become an applied behavior analyst, he or she will need extensive schooling and training. At the basic level, that person should take the psychology education. After becoming a licensed clinical psychologist which means a master’s degree for being an applied behavior is compulsory, he/she need either training in ABA or a doctoral degree in behavior analysis.
Many different psychology professionals or special education teachers with the appropriate psychology education background can work with the tenets of applied behavior analysis because it is a pedagogical and therapeutic approach. So, we can say that ABA therapists may have other advanced degrees in psychology, education, or other salient fields.
Jobs That Individuals with Autism Can Work
Attempting to understand individuals with autism as a whole, which distinguishes them from other people, is the greatest support that can be offered in overcoming the difficulties and minimizing their problems. Our primary goal should be not to completely remove individuals from the spectrum of autism, but to understand the process, to try to turn them into individuals who can remain healthy in society and produce meaningful productions for other people.
When conducting such a process, a legitimate concern arises for families: children who have been diagnosed with autism get a career in adulthood! The primary concern of the family is how their children will be able to cope with their lives in the years to come if their families are not with them.
It is, of course, possible. They can live in a society without the need of any individual, member of family or friends. In order to succeed these, they need to join active production processes and life itself. Even though they have limited abilities and skills, and limited interests, they are able to work in some jobs.
Families tend to react as if a tragic event has happened to them when their children are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. This is a challenging period for everyone in this situation, whether it is met with cold-blood or emotional reactions. Apart from the difficulty of accepting the process, it is most healthy not to read this situation as a disaster in the process of supporting an individual diagnosed with autism.
People must live their lives in the world with all kinds of problems, deficiencies, and weaknesses. Even when people seem most happy, it is possible to watch the shadows of sadness, tragedy and the drama. We should not link happiness, which is our own fiction, to a certain moment, a certain human characteristic, and conditions in general. Happiness is not a period of time or process, but a perspective, a way of reading the world in certain ways.
A perspective free from the preconditions that often make our lives difficult will give us the opportunity to look at children with a diagnosis of autism and autism from a different view.
When considering what occupations may be appropriate for individuals diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder or Asperger’s Syndrome, it is necessary to think about the child’s strengths, not the attractiveness of the profession and its popularity in society. This is not valid only for children with autism but for everyone. However, when it comes to autism, the difficulties that those individuals can and cannot do and the difficulties they face in social settings should be handled more carefully.
When choosing a job for individuals diagnosed with autism, the difficulties experienced by the individual in social relations, competencies in long-term and short-term memory areas, and concrete and abstract thinking skills should be taken into consideration.
Since most of the individuals with autism have problems in social relations, the products they produce should be taken into consideration in the job selection process. When choosing a job, areas, where social relations are less important, should be considered. Computer programming may be an option for individuals with high functioning autism.
Considering that individuals with autism experience difficulties in abstract thinking, avoiding some areas such as history, political science, business administration, and literature may facilitate the child’s work.
As we all now that people on the spectrum may have superior skills in different areas. Thus, they are able to work efficiently in these areas with credentials such as attention to detail, compliance with rules, punctuality, honesty, and meticulousness.
It is possible to reduce the disadvantages they have. After reducing, they can participate in social and working life easier compared to before. For this reason, raising the awareness of community is necessary. So, they can work in accordance with their characteristics and their performances.
Temple Grandin, a world-renowned professor with autism at Colorado State University in the United States, claimed that the long-term memory of individuals diagnosed with autism is much better than their short-term memory. Therefore, the professor recommends that individuals diagnosed with autism should prepare a portfolio of their work during and after their education and make their production concrete and visible to the employers.
Within the framework of this general idea and the criteria it proposes, it may be wise to avoid occupations that create a heavy burden on short-term memory such as cashiers, waitresses, driver, jobs that needs to take verbal directives, airline ticket agency, brokerage, air traffic controller, receptionist, and operator.
What Are the Jobs That May Be Suitable for Individuals on the Autism Spectrum?
Computer Programming: It can offer different business areas and opportunities in the fields of industrial automation, software development, communication and management of network systems.
Commercial arts: Advertising and graphic design, newspapers, magazines, book designs.
Photography: photoshoot, video shoot, videographer.
Equipment design: An area required in many sectors.
Animal trainer or veterinary technician
Car mechanics: To be able to master all the accents and working principles of the car.
Crafts: wood carving, jewelry making, ceramics, etc.
Laboratory technician: Preparation and adjustment of special laboratory equipment.
Web design: It is an area that can be carried out freelance and the difficulties in social relations will not affect the job much.
Video game design
Computer animation: An ideal area for people with autism who are visually minded and have high skills in this field.
These jobs which are listed above are a suitable list for individuals with autism who have strong visual skills. There are also other occupations that are recommended for individuals with autism who do not think visually and are good in mathematics, music, and data. For example; accounting, librarianship, computer programming, engineering, journalism, editor, driver, cashier, box office clerk, telemarketing, statistician, physics, mathematics.
Finally, individuals with autism with speech problems may also be responsible for shelf organization in libraries and work on assembly lines in factories. They can also find suitable jobs as s warehouse supervisor and gardener, or at data entry, plant maintenance and recycling facilities.
For children with an autism spectrum disorder, when choosing a job with a justified concern, parents must first make sure that they know the child well. They can also have a meeting with their trusted specialists and therapists who are with them and their children during the therapy process. This way, they can better understand the child’s strengths and weaknesses and determine orientations.
It is not something impossible to hold full-time jobs for people on the spectrum like normally developed people. It is surprisingly true that people on the spectrum perform better, their work ethic is higher and their quality of work is better compared to their counterparts.
Jobs for non-verbal autism: Librarian, factory assembly work, janitor, restocking shelves, recycling plant, warehouse management, lawn and garden work, data entry, fast food crew, flower arrangement.
Jobs for people with high functioning autism: Computer programming, drafting, photography, equipment designing, car mechanic, accounting, taxi driver, physicist, mathematician, animal trainer.
Autism and Employment
It has been very difficult to find a regular and paid job for people with autism. Even though it is still existence in some degree, times has been changing in a better way. People and companies in industries are more aware of the conditions. They are discovering the benefits of employees with an autism spectrum disorder.
There are several benefits of employing and working with ones with autism. They are hardworking employees. They have an excellent ethic understanding. When it is needed, their obsessions work great. They have passion and enthusiasm even for a tiny task. They have unique perspectives. Compared to other people, they are less, nearly never, distracted by social interactions.
At the present time, most individuals with autism are underemployed or those who have jobs are working part-time. There are reasons for this situation. There is a low expectation from them about finding a satisfying career. They often have symptoms that get in the way of successful interviewing, managing the physical requirements of the workplace, or engaging successfully with work teams.
It is quite difficult for people with autism to find a job in the general community. They have to compete a lot for the positions they want. And this can be difficult for individuals with autism whose social communication skills are problematic.
School is entitlement until the day the government determines. It means that school is required to provide a free and appropriate education until the legal process over. Thus, the child with autism may or may not qualify for services and even the child is qualified, the service providers may or may not be funded. So, they have to find an appropriate job eventually. To make this happen, they will need to know how the transition works, what options are available for them, and how to qualify the child for the services he/she may need.
Schools were set up to provide students with severe disabilities with life skills training and help with basic work skills. It is only in the last few years that a large cohort of people with autism has needed a completely different type of transition-to-adulthood program. Schools are mandated to provide appropriate transition programs for students with autism, but not all schools are ready or able to do so.
As a result, parents are the ones who do the research, find the resources and provide direction to the schools for their children on the spectrum. Alternatively, some parents just ignore schools and use their own resources and networks to support their adult children.
Most adult programs and services are paid for and managed by the government, with some programs which are available on a local level. Some governments can be more generous with their funding, some have more disability-friendly employees, or sometimes some governments have no rules about this issue. So, we can say that adult services for autism vary by location.
Organizations, companies or even governments are just beginning to understand what it means to work with adults with an autism spectrum disorder. They are accustomed to finding appropriate jobs and supports for people with intellectual or physical disabilities. Autism is neither. While they are doing their best to catch up with the needs of a fast-growing group of adults with both great abilities and great challenges, they are also struggling with bureaucracy and funding issues.
There are many organizations and websites established to inform parents who question autism. Of course, their challenge is to ask the right people the right questions at the right time. Families can read publications, talk to counselors, attend conferences, or attend presentations of some organizations, depending on their location and where they live.
There are variations among people on the spectrum who want to work. They may know exactly what kind of jobs they want to work. They may be flexible. Or, they may have no idea. However, they have a right to choose what they want to do like their peers. They have a right to choose their own responsibilities. Even if a person has limited verbal skills, it is important to know that the work he/she is doing suits his/her interests, abilities, and sense of purpose. So, we should say that autism employment choices should be self-directed.
There are some tools and tests in order to help people on the spectrum about their job careers. These tools make the process easier for them. They can make a plan for training, internship, and vocational opportunities with the help of professionals related to these areas.
As we all know that abilities and skills are not always enough and sufficient to get, keep and maintain a good job in case of adults with autism. There could be some issues that can be serious obstacles to employment. Understanding the strengths and challenges they have are important to the transition and job search process.
Therefore, the job options available to them also depend on their abilities and difficulties. For example, finding a job for an individual with no verbal autism without a few sensory problems may sometimes be easier than a skilled technician who cannot work in an office environment. Or a young adult with autism can be incredibly successful in mathematics. However, if he cannot generalize this feature to different areas, if he cannot use it in a more necessary function, he may still not find a job.
At the present time, many companies have started to see the value of employing employees in the autism spectrum. There are more job opportunities for them than ever before. In addition, several small companies build their businesses on autistic strengths and capabilities. It is useful to follow the autism employment news as the opportunities are constantly increasing.
Even though it is a highly wanted situation, it is severely rare to see someone on the spectrum gets, keeps, and maintains a great job throughout his or her life. Without sufficient preparation and support, it is a nearly impossible situation. So, you need to prepare people on the spectrum for success. You can set them up for success. But you have to keep in mind that it needs planning and hard work.
There are some necessities that planning should involve. For example, at least one disability-focused agency, the active engagement of the employer, an internship program, training and practice, job coaching, mentorship, ongoing evaluation, troubleshooting, and problem-solving.