The first step towards getting a job can be intimidating. Teenagers with autism often need extra support when applying for positions. A perfect place to start is by having a conversation with your child to discuss interests and skills, but most important is passion.
What is their passion and greatest interest in life? What will motivate them to take this passion to the level of earning money and possibly building a career? Before you begin looking at job opportunities for your teenager, first figure out what they actually enjoy doing and want to do. What are they interested in? For example, an animal lover may look for jobs as a dog walker or working at an animal shelter. Someone who enjoys math and likes numbers may want to try and find a position working a cash register. Remember, you want your child to earn money but you also want them to be happy.
It is important to be realistic with your child about whether their skills match what they are attaining to do. In other words, every person has a unique set of skills and strengths. It is best to match those strengths with jobs where it would help them excel. A person who is organized, comfortable talking on the telephone, knowledgeable about cars, and works well with others would not realistically be able to become a construction worker.
Think about the individual strengths and weaknesses.
What are their sensory needs?
What specific set of circumstances causes your child stress and anxiety?
Do they enjoy standing or sitting in one place?
Do they prefer being in a constant state of motion?
Is a routine absolutely necessary or can the schedule vary?
Can they handle being on the telephone?
Do they work better alone or with a group of people?
How can your child improve their skills with more training or school? Finding opportunities in the community to further learn and build competencies can help boost a resume and provide valuable experience for joining the future workforce. Volunteer opportunities where you can practice vital skills that will be used later in your career can help make for a more appealing job candidate.
Another option would be an internship. At an internship, your child could see what kind of worker they are and if further support is needed. In this case, a contract that includes a performance review at the end would be helpful.
What else can you do to prepare your child for entering the workforce?
Write up a letter that states the strengths and abilities
Practice filling out applications online and go through each step
Use a job coach or disability career service to help find job openings
Talk about the importance of being on time for work and waking up early enough to do the morning routine
Go through public transportation options in your area if needed
Talk about interviews. Role-play how the interview would normally go
If a job does not come right away, remember that it normally takes a person numerous interviews, phone calls, and follow ups to get hired. Don’t give up and continue to have a positive attitude!
The following video is about Jimmy and is the perfect example of turning your passion into employment! Good luck on your hunt!