Employment should take advantage of the individual’s strengths and abilities. Temple Grandin, Ph.D. suggests, “jobs should have a well-defined goal or endpoint, ” and that your “boss must recognize your social limitations.”
In A Parent’s Guide to Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism, the authors describe three employment possibilities: competitive, supported and secure or sheltered.
Competitive employment is the most independent with no support offered in the work environment. Individuals with AS may be successful in careers that require focus on details but have limited social interaction with colleagues, such as computer sciences, research or library sciences. In supported employment, a system of supports allow individuals to have paid employment in the community, sometimes as part of a mobile crew, other times individually in a job developed for the person. In secure or sheltered employment, an individual is guaranteed a job in a facility-based setting. Individuals in secure settings generally also receive work skills and behavior training while sheltered employment may not provide training that would allow for more independence.
To look for employment, begin by contacting agencies that may be of help such as state employment offices, social services offices, mental health departments, and disability-specific organizations. Find out about special projects in your area and determine the eligibility to participate in these programs. It is important to find employers who are willing to work with people with Asperger’s syndrome.
Whether an adult with Asperger’s syndrome continues to live at home or moves out into the community, will be determined in large part by his/her ability to manage everyday tasks with little or no supervision. For example, can he handle housework, cooking, shopping, and bill paying? Is she able to use public transportation?
Many families prefer to start with some supportive living arrangements and move towards increased independence. Supervised group homes usually serve several individuals with disabilities. They are typically located in residential neighborhoods in an average family home. The homes are staffed by trained professionals who assist residents based on the person’s level of need. Usually the residents have a job, which takes them away from home during the day. A supervised apartment may be suitable for individuals who prefer to live with fewer people, but still require some supervision and assistance. There is usually no daily supervision, but someone comes by several times a week. The residents are responsible for going to work, preparing meals, personal care and housekeeping needs. A supervised apartment setting is a good transition to independent living.
Independent living means just that individuals live in their own apartments or houses and require little, if any, support services from outside agencies. Services may be limited to helping with complex problem-solving issues rather than day-to-day living skills. For instance, some individuals may need assistance with managing money or handling government bureaucracies. It is also important for those living independently to have a “buddy” who lives nearby that can be contacted for support.
Support systems within the community might include bus drivers, waitresses, or coworkers. Many people think of adulthood in terms of getting a job and living in a particular area, but having friends and a sense of belonging in a community are also important. Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome may need assistance in encouraging friendships and structuring time for special interests. Many of the support systems developed in the early years may continue to be useful.
Source: Autism Society of America, 2007.