Employment on the Spectrum

Finding a job can be difficult enough. Finding a job for someone on the spectrum seems to be ten times more difficult.

At the age of 18 my autistic son has only worked a handful of days in his life. I tried to help him to find a part-time job when he was 16 but it proved extremely difficult. To apply for jobs at many of the ‘usual’ places such as supermarkets, etc. you need to go through an online application process. Gone are the days where you just hand your resume to the manager and hope to get a call back.

With each of the online applications there is generally an aptitude test that the prospective employee must complete. There are some questions to help them find out information about the incumbent. One such question is: Do you have a disability? To which my son answered honestly, even though he hesitated to do so, we thought honesty was the best policy. Perhaps as a result of his honesty, perhaps not, he never once received a reply from any of the places where he applied for a job, and subsequently unlike most kids his age, he has never had a part-time job.

As part of his VCAL course last year (2020) he completed a Certificate 2 in Retail. He was able to get some work experience in retail as part of this qualification, however, the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions in Victoria put a stop to all non-essential retail and subsequently any further work experience.

He has since had a few days labouring with a plasterer, and has done a few odd gardening jobs, but there has never been a permanent part-time job and therefore his hands-on work experience is really lacking.

Not to mention the fact that his career ideas for the future seem to be a little bit far-fetched and unrealistic. I wonder if other parents struggle with bringing their autistic child back to reality when helping them make their career pathways. Although my son is currently in his last year of school and is doing a Certificate 2 in Plumbing, his career choices do not involve either retail or plumbing. Instead he is keen to work on army tanks in Russia, or to move to Japan to pursue an acting career. It’s all very ambitious, and without qualifications or experience, or even the knowledge of how to travel overseas and support himself in a foreign country, it all seems very ‘pie in the sky’ to me.

I’ve mentioned to my son that he should get some careers counselling at school to help give him some idea about what jobs are available that he might find interesting, and what the pathways are to getting employment. I hope that this will help to lead him on the right path, but he is a strong-willed young adult, who is very set in his beliefs, so it may lead nowhere, or it may be just the thing he needs to get himself on track. Time will tell.

At this stage my main goal for him is to satisfactorily complete his VCAL Certificate, as I know that will give him a significant advantage in the job market. There are other options for school leavers with disability that I have heard of locally (around Frankston and the Mornington Peninsula) which we can look at down the track such as the School Leaver Employment Services (SLES) and GenU. I hope there will always be options for employment, and that he will find his niche in the workforce and finds something that he is content with.

SASI Guest Parent Blogger

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