Parents! There is good news for people with autism-specttrum disorders! The number of diagnosed autism-spectrum disorders has increased to about 1% of the population in the United States alone. That means that over three million people have autism-spectrum disorders of some kind. According to the latest figures that were issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that one in sixty eight children are identified as having autism-spectrum disorders.
Parents with special needs children including those with autism-spectrum disorders worry about their future employment.
Until very recently the lifetime employment of people with autism-spectrum disorders has been very low. According to a study published last year in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry only 50% of adults between the ages of 21 and 25 years old have held paid jobs outside of the home if they have autism-spectrum disorders. Even though many have higher education and are qualified for various positions, they often have difficulty in getting through the door because of difficulties with networking and interviewing.
Some characteristics of autism-spectrum disorders can include:
- Average or above-average intelligence.
- Poor or delayed motor skills
- Lack of skill in interacting with others
- Little understanding of the abstract uses of language, such as humor or give-and-take in a conversation
- Obsessive interest in specific items or information
- Strong reactions to textures, smells, sounds, sights, or other stimuli that others might not even notice, such as a flickering light
- Inability to read facial expressions or body language well
- Interpret language literally
- Need others to explain exactly what behavior is expected
- May have a rigid or unusual way of interacting with others.
- May have difficulties with non-verbal communication including awareness of and understanding of facial expressions, gestures, etc.
- May have an inability to pick up on unwritten social rules, so may stand too close to other people, talk about taboo subjects, be overly demanding, etc.
- Rocking, tapping, fidgeting
- Insistence on talking about only one or two subjects of personal interest
- May have advanced skills in one area and very low skills in another – e.g. advanced computer programming skill but need support with daily living skills.
Thorkil Sonne of SAP (A German multinational software corporation that makes enterprise software to manage business operations and customer relations.) has children with autism. He understands that people with the disorders often possess the very attributes that SAP wants in certain employees. Often they have high intelligence and memory and the ability to see patterns and have a great attention to detail especially when doing repetitive tasks.
Sonne is quoted, “If we could use skills like I saw among people with autism in software testing, data analysis, quality control, that would be phenomenal… There is no reason why we should leave these people unemployed when they have so much talent and there are so many vacant jobs in the high tech sector.”
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, students with autism spectrum disorders receive support in school, but that stops after they graduate. A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics, found that 35 percent of young adults with autism-spectrum disorders were not employed or attending college or technical school within six years of graduating from high school.
Often people doing repetitive jobs get bored but this is not the case for people with autism-spectrum disorders. Routine works well for them.