Many disabled people, especially adults with high functioning autism or similar learning disabilities, would like to find work, but struggle to navigate the application process and explain their disability to prospective employers.
Recent statistics indicate that only 15% of adults with autism are in full time paid work. Those who are not in full time employment do want to work, but for many of them the lack of support while they’re trying to find employment is a massive hurdle, especially for adults who were diagnosed with Asperger’s or autism later in life, and managed to make it through school and earn good qualifications.
Support Activities for Adults With Learning Disabilities
Employment support advisors often assume that adults with disabilities are only suitable for low-level jobs such as stacking shelves in supermarkets, sorting mail, or menial clerical work. While these lower level jobs may suit some people, many disabled adults are highly literate and numerate, able to think analytically, and able to perform well in demanding jobs, as long as the environment is right for them.
These adults need support during the application process, and need to work with employers to figure out how they can get by in the work place.
The modern office is an incredibly noisy, social place. For someone with autism, the thought of talking on the phone, or engaging in “team building” exercises is a stressful one. They may be perfectly capable of doing their job well, but they may struggle if they are expected to cross train, deal with outsiders, or take part in extra-curricular events.
The Application Hurdle
Adults with autism may be missing out on jobs because they don’t feel qualified to apply for them. How many job advertisements have you seen that use hyperbolic language, or demand exceptional qualifications for a lower level position? A neuro-typical person may apply for a job even if they don’t meet every single requirement listed, but a person with autism might take that advertisement literally, and choose not to apply.
If they do apply, they may struggle with the interview process because they don’t cope well with the hypothetical situations that interviewers love to set up as part of the interview process. Or, they may come across as stand-offish, perhaps even arrogant, because they aren’t sure how to act in an interview.
The best way to support people who are trying to make their way back into the workplace is to offer training activities for adults with learning disabilities. You may want to teach them some of the common scenarios, and help them prepare answers to popular interview questions. If they know what to expect, they’ll be more likely to make a good impression in the interview.
Support in the Workplace
Once a disabled adult has found a job, the next step is to help them keep it. Many disabled people suffer from feelings of isolation or exclusion, especially if their disability is not obviously visible. Support in the form of a quiet working environment, a workplace advocate, and regular progress assessments will help them to get comfortable in their new role.