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Autism and Employment. Exploring Opportunities. Autism and Employment . Making It Work. Sometimes job placement for a person with a disability, including autism, is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole!

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Autism and Employment

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Autism and Employment

Exploring Opportunities


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Autism and Employment

Making It Work

  • Sometimes job placement for a person with a disability, including autism, is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole!

  • If the person with autism is the peg, then we have to explore on how to change the hole!


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Changing the Hole(Job Carving)

Job carving is a method of matching job seeker and employer needs, through finding ways to dissect, disseminate, or go outside the standard existing job descriptions to create employment opportunities.

What is Job Carving?


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Job Carving: The Process

Where it Begins

  • Job carving does not begin with the employer or the worksite. Instead, it begins by getting to know a person’s unique interests, gifts and talents, and then matching those to an employment setting.

  • Through techniques such as person centered planning, or vocational profiling, you can get to know the job seeker, regardless of the significance of their disability, well enough to use their interests, gifts, and talents as a guide in beginning the search for employment.

  • It is important to have a good “picture” of the job seeker, before the job carving process should proceed.


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Job Carving: The Process

Who is it for?

Job carving is generally reserved for individuals who are not likely to succeed, even with support, when going through a typical competitive employment application and interview process.

Job carving is used to accentuate the job seeker’s unique interests, gifts and talents.

Job carving should not be used to pull undesirable tasks from other workers’ duties.

“Job carving should always highlight an employee’s gifts, not the tedious tasks of others.” (Griffin, 1996)

(Sometimes the two may not be at odds with one another.)


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Job Carving: The Process

How is it done?

Job carving is a unique process for each individual and each employer.

The steps to job carving include:

Exposing the dreams, interests, gifts, and talents of the job seeker to the employer.

Search for employment opportunities that utilize, or highlight the interests, gifts, and talents of the job seeker.

Complete a job analysis in order to determine task sequencing, natural supports, tasks that may require additional instruction, modification, alternative methods, or that may need to be done in partnership with another worker


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Job Carving: The Process

How is it done?…cont.

Negotiate with the employer, highlighting the individual’s contributionto the workplace and offer a reasonable and understandable re-arrangement of work tasks in order to employ the individual. Negotiate with the assumption that the applicant and the employer both have common desires: one person wants to work and the other needs someone to work.

  • Coach/train/educate the employer and co-workers so that they can teach the individual the job and continue to provide accommodations and natural supports as needed.

Provide on-going long-term support to the employer and

the worker.


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Job Carving: The Process

Review and Conclusion

  • Always begin with the person.

  • Find their dreams, skills and talents…what they want, what they have to contribute.

  • Complete an analysis of the job skills, work routines and corporate culture; determine needed accommodations and natural supports.

  • Negotiate employment that is mutually satisfying to the employer and the worker.

  • Provide long term support to the employer.


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Square Pegs: Autism in the WorkplaceExcerpts from a presentation by Terry Walker, a person with autism

Educating Employers

Mental retardation
(70-80% reported during time when only severe cases came under clinical attention, common but not requirement, may be result of sensory integration errors, new HFA population

should cause re-evaluation of this statistic)

Autism Is NOT...

Savant skill (1-10% have unusual talent with a particular skill or subject)

"Rain Man", the movie with actor Dustin Hoffman 
(a specific example, not a generalization, but a good reminder that adults can be autistic)

Violent outbursts or complete withdrawal 
(possible frustration/ overload response, rarely a

spontaneous unprovoked action)

  • Obsessive-Compulsive behavior 
(repetitions are fascinating not fearful)

  • A developmental "phase" (Autism is not “outgrown”.)

  • ”Anti-social personality" 
(that condition is associated with head trauma, prenatal exposure t0

  • alcohol/drugs, or encephalitis. it is not connected with autism)

Emotional impairment 
(feelings exist! although occurrence may be different)


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Educating Employers…

Autism IS...

  • A neurological difference (brain structure is different)

  • A social disability (difficulty interacting with people at school, work, or home)

  • Attention to limited topics of interest (narrow width, but significant depth)

  • Explosion of alternative thoughts (permutation exploration), or simple literal-mindedness (need precision and clarity at either extreme)


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Educating Employers…

Frequently encountered experiences:

  • Sensory integration problems (sensory avoidance or stimming)

  • Avoidance of crowded areas (not the same as claustrophobia)

  • Digestive system problems

  • Frequent inability to recognize, generate, or value deceptions (lies)

  • Gaze aversion (sensory issue, unable to process vision and sound simultaneously)

  • Notable memory for details

  • Clumsy, uncoordinated (for some tasks)

  • Approximately 80% of autistics are male (there is discussion that some females may be undiagnosed or misdiagnosed)

  • IQ scores were previously thought to be low for autistics, but the diagnosed population has changed substantially in the last decade with the introduction of Asperger's Syndrome, so the average score is now unknown


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Educating Employers…

Autistic Strengths Reviewed For the Workplace:

  • At its best, autism can offer these strengths:

  • Strong conceptualization skill (able to mentally model complex systems, may develop instinctive understanding of the system from this internalized model)

  • Logical thinking (strong skills in technical research or computer programming)

  • Exceptional memory

  • Attention to detail (can identify inconsistencies in processes or communications)

  • Honest, straightforward (can treat people fairly)

  • Intense focus

  • Willing and able to learn great depth of information in specific field


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Educating Employers…

Autistic Weaknesses reviewed for the workplace:

Even at its best, autism may still offer these weaknesses:

  • Sensory sensitivities

  • Need for sensory escapes or stimulations

  • Slow to recognize people or objects (persons with prosopagnosia would be bad at security duties)

  • Slow to verbalize

  • Slow to shift attention (may need to avoid multiple responsibilities)

  • Resists change to working procedures

  • Unable/unwilling to navigate office politics (may not recognize the need for hierarchical routing of communication, instead preferring direct communication with the person having information or decision authority)

  • Unable/unwilling to recognize or generate deceptions ("lies"), or bad at doing so

  • Unable/unwilling to comply with some social norms (grooming style, clothing, desk neatness, phone protocol)

  • Poor skill with extemporaneous speaking

  • Poor understanding of metaphors (or recognizing questions as rhetorical)


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Educating Employers…

Workplace Accommodations

Social Concessions

  • Allow the circumvention of some difficult forms of communication: avoid use of phone altogether, or allow redirection of calls directly to voicemail

  • Allow exemptions from attending group gatherings (the typical "mandatory" division or team meeting), always providing the same information in written or recorded form

  • Allow exemptions from attending "team-building" events, or find new creative processes that allow effective autistic participation rather than the typical social encounters

  • Allow exemptions from speaking before a group, instead use written material or a substitute speaker for communication

  • Recognize that the worker may not join meal events unless they can bring their own food and drink that meets their strict dietary requirements (some autistics are sensitive to flavors/odors, some are on strict medical diets free of certain molecules like gluten and casein)


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Educating Employers…

Workplace Accommodations

Social Concessions cont…

  • Educate management and coworkers that "look at me when we're talking" is a counter-productive command, distracting the autistic worker rather than focusing their attention.Some autistics need to unfocus their eyes or focus away from their audience in order to pay attention.

  • Educate management and coworkers that the autistic worker is easily distressed when given confusing or conflicting information.Communication may be taken literally. If there is any ambiguity, the autistic may follow their own uncommon interpretation. ensure that directions are very clear.

  • Educate management and coworkers that they should avoid having different people give different instructions to the worker.Autistics may not be unable to determine whose authority overrides the others, instead choosing either the first directive or the most recent one to follow.


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Educating Employers…

Workplace Accommodations

Sensory Concessions

  • Allow (or hopefully provide) computer monitor/videocard with a high refresh rate. (to prevent flickering)

  • Allow sunglasses, earplugs, headsets to block stimuli.

  • Allow workers to avoid attending meetings in rooms with permanent sensory problems (near a kitchen area with scents, with "inaudible" television noise or ultrasonic sensors, with walls composed entirely of windows, with floors that vibrate because of building motion or nearby machinery)

  • Provide scent-free work areas where perfume, cologne, and cigarettes are forbidden

  • Allow non-disruptive "stimming" devices and other coping behaviors in the work area. These concessions could include: 
chair replacements (a stool or an exercise ball), 
rocking back and forth, or hand-flapping, 
frequent breaks to isolated areas (perhaps hiding in a bathroom stall, vehicle, or unused room)

  • Allow non-standard clothing if the standard issue is a sensory irritant: 
(starched cloth, constricting collar/necktie, fabric that generates noise or static, too-bright colors, dizzying patterns)


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Educating Employers…

Workplace Accommodations

Reactive/Planning Concessions

  • Allow extra time to respond to bureaucratic forms, if they request it

  • Always provide text material that matches verbal communications (always)

  • Allow extra time to respond to voice conversation

  • Remind employees that they can request more frequent and/or more specific feedback

  • Allow a reduction in the number of simultaneous tasks that the worker must cope with 
(frequent starting/stopping of tasks or other frequent shifting of attention may cause an autistic's productivity to plummet far below normal levels)

  • Allow flexible work hours 
(some autistics are notoriously bad about showing up on time, while others are strictly punctual)

  • Allow reduced work hours 
(some autistics "burn out" when required to meet 40-hour schedules for extended periods)

  • Expect resistance to changes in work procedures. Allow more time for them to adjust. Their complaints may not be intended as a hostile threat to authority. Make the requirements clear. Expect them to change slowly, but require them to change eventually. Give as much advance notice as possible for workplace changes.


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Educating Employers…

Workplace Accommodations

$$$ What may it cost the employer? $$$

  • A written, prioritized list of job assignments. Possibly use pictures/visual cues. Cost = $0 to minimal.

  • Clarity and specificity. Cost = $0

  • As much as is possible, consistency. Cost = $0

  • Exemption (within reason) from wearing the company uniform. Cost = Minimal$$

  • A less hostile workplace culture. Employee awareness and sensitivity training. Good for all employees…Cost = Minimal $$

  • Patience. Extra time to learn new routines. Cost = Minimal $

  • Understanding schedule requirements. Cost = $0

  • Consideration in type of work assigned. Cost = $0

  • Lighting, furniture, equipment accommodations. Cost = Small $$$

  • Hiring a qualified, conscientious, hard working employee?

    Added Value = Big $$$!


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Job Carving and Specialized Placement

Examples

  • Dede

  • Rusty

  • Casey

  • April

  • Gina

  • Dale K.

  • Dustin

  • Misty

  • Matt

  • Self-Employment


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Employment First:

Employment for All

  • From Day Services and Sheltered Workshops

  • To Employment First ---Everyone has interests, gifts, talents and contributions to give. Everyone can work…it is up to us to find, create, carve, and develop opportunities that are inclusive with society and meet the goals and needs of all individuals.

We have to change our way of thinking and focus

Regarding education and adult services for people with disabilities…


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