Parents often question or experience stress around wondering if their teen/young adult on the spectrum will have the ability to maintain a job and be successful. KEY interviewed a couple individuals to share their thoughts and perspectives on this topic. Christian, 18 and Robert, 20 are diagnosed with ASD and are currently employed. We hope this perspective is helpful not only for parents but for those in a similar situation wondering what it may be like to get that first job.
How was the process of applying and interviewing for a job?
Robert: “For me applying for jobs while slightly stressful was not a bad experience. However, all the jobs I have gone in and interviewed for that I wanted were jobs in areas I already had some related experience. When I first started as a Behavior Therapist doing ABA, I had already grown up around a brother who was on the spectrum, so I already understood how to respond to certain scenarios such as violence to others or to themselves with children who were on the spectrum. My other job interviews since that point have all related to working with children. Having that experience made me feel more confident in my ability to obtain a job in the field and answer questions in a job interview in the field pretty easily, while still giving good answers to any questions asked. Applying has also been easy purely because now applying is an online task so I just fill in some information and submit my resume as a file on a website then wait for a response.”
Christian: “The process wasn’t super stressful once I got my resume all done, because then I just had to submit it to anyone who was hiring and wait to see if I would get a call back. The only place that called me back and gave me a formal interview was McDonalds who then ghosted me, and I ended up with my current part time job because my sister used to work at the same place.”
How are your relationships with coworkers and supervisors? Do you have open conversations with them about being on the spectrum?
Robert: “I talk often with coworkers on sight and know my supervisors well and while autism has come up, I do have a more minor case as I am high functioning and did not go through ABA myself. Since I work in environments where autism is common as more and more kids get diagnosed with it, being more understood I have not faced any negative stigmas or other issues due to being on the spectrum. Some people do not see it as much because I do not have the most obvious signs at first glance as it isn’t severe but do understand how it does manifest such as with my love of history and knowing a lot about it as well as certain areas of science such as biology. I also am sometimes aloof and unable to pick up on social cues which makes some situations awkward, but I have learned from experience to apologize if any sort of harmful experience occurs, or very odd occurrence happens due to my lack of understanding.”
Christian: “My relationship with my boss is pretty open, I find it easy to take time off if I need it and I’m trusted to open and close the store without supervision. I have two coworkers and we’re all pretty good friends.”
What are your thoughts on being employed? Is there anything that you find challenging or things that you really enjoy about your job?
Robert: “Being employed is time consuming but also a fun time since I personally do better when I am doing more outside with other people for large portions of time. It also helps me follow a better routine of waking up at the same time during the week and getting ready in a timely manner. I also enjoy the work I do as I work as a Behavior Therapist doing ABA and a camp counselor which is all childcare. I have always enjoyed working with children, so it was a good fit from the start. As a Behavior Therapist I have seen some kids improve which is always great as tasks that once were hard for them to complete, be it from just lacking the skills or from refusal to engage in the activity, to being able to do them without issue most of the time. At camp it is nice to see kids get to know each other and play with each other and guide them through activities. A lot of them end up having fun with most of what they end up doing whether it be something like telephone or dodgeball. I think that if one is able to work you should work simply because it is better to do something instead of nothing. However, you also shouldn’t overwork yourself, which is a balance you have to find for yourself.”
Christian: “I like being employed, it keeps me busy and gives me some level of financial independence which has helped me grow more generally independent from my family and prepare me for college. The most challenging part of my job is just the occasional rude customer who can sometimes take a lot of energy to deal with.”
ABA can help with working on some benchmark skills for employment if this is a future goal for both the individual and parent. As mentioned in the interview, the ability to stay on a schedule is a very important skill to have when being employed. Conversation skills can be generalized when socializing with coworkers. Staying on task for increasing durations can be generalized when filling out forms such as job applications. Many times, ABA programs work on these benchmark skills that are needed to obtain and maintain a job and overall set that individual up for a successful independent future.