Adult Life Planning - Employment
Finding employment will not be the same for everyone, as each individual has his or her own set of skills, strengths, and weaknesses. Being aware of these strengths and challenges before looking for a job is essential, as is finding a job that will complement them. Employment may not be possible for some individuals with AS, and some find that they are able to manage part-time work better than full-time. Because AS traits express themselves very differently in each individual, no one job will be ideal for everyone. Members of our community have been employed in a wide range of jobs, from highly skilled professions such as doctors, lawyers, and professors to jobs such as medical transcription, state contract manager, mail center processor, data entry, financial assistant, digital scanner, engineer tech and animal caretaker.
Below are some aspects of employment that may be helpful to keep in mind while looking for a job.
- Highly structured and predictable.
- Does not involve strict time limitations or deadlines.
- Does not involve planning or seeing the whole picture.
- Does involve attention to detail.
- Consider self-employment. When self-employed, the individuals get to be their own boss, choose the type of work they do and set their own schedule. This works best for people who can keep themselves organized and motivated. Or, they should not be afraid to hire somebody to do the aspects of the job that might be more difficult.
- One that allows the individual to have the type of schedule that works for him or her, for example, part-time, or working nights only.
Types of Environments
- Quiet and calm, especially for those with sensory sensitivities.
- Laid back: an understanding boss/supervisor, minimum time pressure, ability to work at own pace in own way.
- Clearly defined rules, expectations, and roles.
- Does not require a lot of interpersonal skills.
- An environment with minimal office politics.
- A place where the supervisor is open and understanding of differences and allows for flexibility in order to accommodate.
Individuals with Asperger’s have the right to disclose and request accommodations at their place of employment. We suggest strategic disclosure:
- It is important to know why one is disclosing as well as what one needs to disclose and to whom.
- When telling an employer about Asperger Syndrome, keep to those traits that affect you and offer a proposed solution to any difficulties on the job.
- It’s important to disclose these issues before problems arise in the workplace.
- For a list of accommodations that might be helpful, see the disclosure checklist in the disclosure letter
- For a checklist to help you think about the right workplace environment for you, see the Employment Self-Inventory Scale
See Barbara Bissonnette's article Should You Disclose Asperger Syndrome to Your Employer? in the Spring 2009 issue of the AANE Journal (p. 27).
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employees with AS and other autism spectrum disorders are guaranteed reasonable accommodation and protected against discrimination on the basis of difficulties associated with their AS or autism. The ADA defines disability as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities." Neurological differences such as AS are not mentioned, but they are included under the (admittedly unflattering) category of "mental impairment."
Most employers are aware of and respect the ADA. However, in the event that your employment is threatened by something directly related to your AS (e.g., your need for a distraction-free workspace), you may need to appeal to the law. To read more about the ADA, visit the ADA home page, http://www.ada.gov, and click on "Guide to Disability Rights Laws" on the right side of the page.
Other Important Points
- Emphasize skills: loyal, reliable, honest, follows directions exactly, attentive to details, creative, intelligent, among others.
- Learn the unwritten rules of the workplace, such as who to ask when there are questions, personal and private boundaries, bathroom breaks, phone and internet usage, etc.
- Turn a special interest into a career. Though this may not work for everyone, if an individual with AS is able to use his or her special interest in the workplace, they may find it very rewarding
- Know your skills, strengths, weaknesses, and limitations.