Employers are realizing more and more that there is a group of potential employees in the autism community who can be productive workers if given a chance. Chris Simler is the director of career development services at Turning Pointe Autism Foundation, which has a program that focuses on teaching career and life skills to individuals preparing to transition to the workplace. He stresses that “there is no typical job for a person with autism.” They can work in retail, accounting, data entry, and even social work. “I don’t see the walls,” Simler tells the Naperville Sun, “The more we can put people with autism in different places, the more awareness we can create.”
As long as parents or caregivers can help uncover the person’s strengths and interests, a person with autism can become a very effective employee. Laurie and Jim Jerue, from Naperville, IL, have a daughter named Sarah with severe autism. They developed a business out of their home called Helper Girl, where Sarah, 23, can do tasks such as document shredding and container planting for local establishments, which she enjoys doing.
As with any job, the key to finding employment for people with autism is matching their skills and features with job requirements. Professor Scott Standifer of the University of Missouri’s Disability Policy and Studies Office explains that businesses that employ individuals with autism need to also ensure that co-workers understand that person’s unique way of communicating and also provide support for challenges such as sensory sensitivity or anxiety issues.
Aspiritech, a nonprofit organization in Highland Park, IL, hires people with autism to test computer software. They have the ability to catch irregularities that others would miss. Moshe Weitzberg, director of operations, says they also have an autism specialist who gives support to workers even beyond the workplace.
Some employers begin hiring people with disabilities thinking that they are doing something nice, but they soon realize that these people make excellent workers. “There’s an untapped pool of potential workers available in the special needs community,” says one Naperville resident whose 19-year-old son is autistic. “[They] can really do a great job for many employers.”
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