Getting to work: Helping the adolescent with
Asperger Syndrome transition to employment
Despite having higher intellectual levels and the potential to work, few people with Asperger Syndrome (AS) are in regular employment (Goode, Rutter, and Howlin 1994). Furthermore, even those with formal qualifications are often underemployed and it is common for jobs to end prematurely. Pre-vocational life skills training, combined with good planning and support, is crucial for a successful work experience for people with AS. When introduced at an early age, these factors dramatically increase the chances for meaningful, long-term employment.
The successful transition from school to work begins long before graduation and requires comprehensive planning. Wehman, Kregel, and Barcus (1985), who have written on the overall importance of transitional planning for individuals with autism, contend that a transitional plan from school to work supersedes the potential significance of all other aspects of transitional services.
The skills that will help an individual with AS maintain employment are learned in childhood, and further develop as the child enters grade school, high school, and post-secondary education. The student with AS needs additional understanding and support to help him or her acquire suitable skills. The knowledge that professionals have about AS, how it manifests, and how people with AS learn and process information, will have a considerable impact on what teaching strategies and support systems they use. Often this professional support lays the groundwork for accomplishment in the workplace.
The purpose of this chapter is to discuss some of the common challenges young people with AS face when trying to obtain and keep work. This chapter will address how they might position themselves better for employment success.