Future work opportunities for your child with autism spectrum disorder

As your child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) moves through the teenage years, you and your child might start to think more about her future work opportunities.

If your child has some specific interests – as teenagers with ASD often do – you could think about whether his interests could fill gaps in the paid and volunteer workforce. For example, your child might be really keen on working with families of children with ASD, doing graphic design or walking dogs for the elderly.

Volunteering and paid work in the teenage years can help you and your child figure out whether these interests can be turned into longer-term employment goals. It can also help your child learn skills, like team work and punctuality, which can be used in any workplace.

Volunteering for teenagers with autism spectrum disorder

Volunteering involves giving time to help support a project, business or cause. People don’t get paid for volunteer work. Volunteering has many rewards, especially if your child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) gets involved in a project or a cause she finds meaningful and can contribute to.

Volunteering can:

  • give your child the chance to meet new people and build new skills
  • build your child’s resumé – your child could ask for a certificate of involvement to put in his work folder
  • lead to employment opportunities through contacts
  • give an organisation the chance to get to know your child and his interests, strengths and needs
  • help your child learn about and apply for paid positions at the place he’s volunteering.

Finding the right match for your child
You can find the right volunteering match for your child by thinking about what she likes to do and what she’s good at. For example, volunteering to play card games with the elderly or to read with children or teenagers who have English as a second language is a useful shared experience that provides a routine, structure and social setting where your child can focus on a task.

Finding volunteering opportunities
Teenagers can get involved with many volunteer organisations and projects, including in the areas of:

  • conservation or gardening
  • animal care and welfare
  • aged and disability visitor programs
  • food programs
  • English as a second language programs.

A great first step is to look for opportunities in your local area that interest your child. You can also go to the websites of organisations that work on specific causes – for example, conservation volunteers or the RSPCA. Your local council will have information on volunteering opportunities too.

Another idea is checking out state-based volunteering websites, which help to match volunteers with volunteering groups and opportunities:

Employment for teenagers with autism spectrum disorder

Teenagers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often need support to put themselves forward as job candidates.

A good starting point for your child is working out what he wants to do – his work goal. Then he needs to work out how he can start achieving this goal.

You can help by:

  • getting your child to think about her skills and interests and how these could be used to apply for jobs or work experience
  • being realistic with your child about whether her current skills are likely to get her a job or work experience
  • thinking together about how your child can improve her skills with extra training
  • identifying training programs in disability support agencies and support services for self-employment
  • thinking about work experience or voluntary work first to get your child some experience.

After you’ve discussed these points, you can work together to plan the steps your child needs to take to reach his work goal. Then your child can focus on what to do to achieve the first step.

You could suggest your child offers to do an internship. This lets an employer see what kind of worker your child is. But be specific about how long the internship will run for. If the work will be ongoing, you could suggest writing up a contract that your child and the employer can both review at the end of three months. This might stop people taking advantage of your child by not paying her for work in the longer term, or keeping her on as an intern when paid positions are available.

Preparing teenagers with autism spectrum disorder for volunteer or paid work: tips

Here are more things you can do to help your child get ready for volunteer or paid work.

Resumés and other kinds of self-promotion

  • Create a resumé or work portfolio for your child, if he doesn’t already have one.
  • Make a business card with your child’s details.
  • Think about careful use of social media pages to host your child’s resumé or promote a business.

Practice and skills

  • Find your child a job coach, careers counsellor or disability employment service to help her learn how to do paperwork, write a resumé, draft cover letters, understand pay structures and understand workplace behaviour.
  • Talk to your child about volunteer or paid work responsibilities and workplace expectations, like punctuality.
  • Encourage your child to practise skills for cold-calling and speaking on the phone. If your child isn’t strong in this area, encourage him to find out whether emailing is acceptable.
  • Get your child to practise filling out online applications.
  • Help your child learn how to take transport to different places.
  • Develop a card or letter that outlines your child’s strengths and abilities.
  • Role-play an interview with your child to prepare her for the types of questions she might be asked in interviews.

If your child gets an interview
If your child has a particular communication style – for example, if he needs to type rather than speaking – encourage him to find out from the interview panel if he can use this style during the interview. This will give him the best chance of doing well.

If your child doesn’t get an interview
If your child isn’t successful in finding work at first, remind her that it takes most people many applications and interviews to get a job. Encourage her to focus on the positives and keep going with the process.