By Dan Coulter
What’s your child with Asperger Syndrome going to do for a living?
Too early to start thinking about that? Really, it's not. While your ten year old or teenager doesn’t have to immediately choose a career, he’s much more likely to find and keep a job when the time comes if you start preparing him in two important ways.
First, assess any social skill deficits your child has and help him work to overcome or mitigate them. Many people with superior job skills have trouble getting hired or staying employed because they lack basic social skills.
Second, expose your child to a variety of jobs and careers. Don’t apply pressure to have him pick a job or even a career field, but make it an interesting topic of conversation. Take him to see people working. Your goal is to have your child find something that sparks his interest so he tells you what he wants to do with his life. From my experience, when a child with Asperger Syndrome latches onto a special interest, you don’t need to do any pushing.
If your child can find a career field that aligns with that special interest, it could be his ticket to an independent livelihood. Of course, you may have to be creative in helping him see a way to capitalize on that interest in a job. Try turning it around, "Gee, look how doing this job would let you do the thing you love."
If your child still has challenges with social skills when he starts a job search, you want an employer to willingly provide reasonable accommodations because your adult child demonstrates he’ll be a valuable employee.
He can also seek a job that’s in high demand but has little competition. For example, I recently heard an interview with Joel Leonard, who calls himself "the maintenance evangelist." He points out that few young people are going into the building maintenance technologies and that buildings are being maintained by older people who will be retiring at an increasing rate in the years ahead. He sees a coming crisis. If your child has a mechanical or electronic aptitude and can make that the focus of his education, he might find a multitude of building maintenance engineer openings with supervisors willing to accommodate some odd behaviors. You can seek out similar "high demand" career niches that might suit your child.
If your child finds dealing with other people especially difficult, he may want to look into jobs that are not "people intensive." An online listing of such jobs I saw recently included accountants, computer programmers, writers, budget analysts, medical transcriptionists, actuaries, and forensic science technicians.
Self-sufficiency is an important goal for children who have Asperger Syndrome. If you can begin a positive, low-key campaign to help your child be "job ready" when the time comes, you’ve managed one of the most important tasks a parent has.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR -- Dan Coulter is the producer of ten DVDs about Asperger Syndrome and autism, including "Manners for the Real World: Basic Social Skills" and "Asperger Syndrome at Work." You can find more articles on his website: coultervideo.com. Copyright 2010 Dan Coulter All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.