Guest Author - Tara O´Gorman, MSW
The diagnosis of 'autism' brings up a host of feelings and emotions for parents. Even when they have accepted the diagnosis, emotions such as fear and anxiety may remain. How will I connect with him when he seems so different from me? Will my child ever be able to care for herself, on her own? Will he be able to hold a job?
Current statistics claim that as many as 1 in every 68 children are living with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Will all of these children end of on social welfare rolls or live with family members for their entire lives? Many consider the term 'autism' in terms of 'disability' and look to treatment and long-term care as the only viable options. But what if the paradigm could be shifted to view every child with ASD as a potential asset rather than liability? What if finding the 'magic' within each child became the goal to long-term success?
Not every child is "Rain Man." The image of the autistic person as a mathematical genius is a stereotype that does not apply to the vast majority of people with ASD. But all humans, whether autistic, neurotypical, or somewhere in between, possess strengths, weaknesses, desires, and capabilities. For some on the spectrum, there may be an obvious skill or passion that can lead to employability. A teen who loves computers may eventually train to repair computers or learn web design. Children who love animals may find careers working in a veterinary setting or with animal rescue organizations.
For those whose talents have yet to be uncovered, skills assessments and vocational education through organizations who work with special-needs kids and adults may be an appropriate path to helping a person with ASD discover how their skills can be beneficial to an employer. The more subtle magic inside may be uncovered through this type of exploration. Although a job in janitorial work or on an overnight restocking crew may not appear glamorous to some people, a person may find pride in employability and in being an asset to the company where they are contributing. Once exposed to lower-level jobs, training may available to help further the employee's career in a company or help prepare them with another set of skills that would be beneficial in future jobs.
Whether it is honing obvious passions and abilities into a long-term career or beginning on a smaller scale to provide employability options, there are many benefits to assisting those on the spectrum with career training. Contacts in the local disability and autism community are excellent resources to help a family begin searching for options for a teen or young adult looking to enter the workforce.