Kerryn Burgoyne (trainer and educator who has Asperger’s disorder): Work is good for people with autism spectrum disorders. ASD. Because it gives them something to focus on. Work helps them to feel good and contribute to their community and also they’re very loyal and reliable workers.
Lillian (mother of Tash, 13, who is autistic): Tash is a very mobile and active sort of person. It’s…there’s no way she’s going to just be sitting home doing nothing. That would drive her insane, me insane, and it’s futile. She should have a job and she will have a job. She will be in whatever environment really suits her and what she’s happy with.
Dr Mark Stokes (Associate Professor, School of Psychology, Deakin University): Parents need to be involved in setting that up for them. They need to help guide them as to what kind of jobs could you possibly go and look for. What are appropriate rules for you to live by in a work environment. And setting up ways for them to interact in that work environment.
Elena (mother of Alex, 15, who is autistic): Once they hit Year 9 they do one day of work skills each week so he’s in the group that they walk to the bowling club and they have a room set up where they do work skills. Teaching him that he’s got to follow instructions from what the supervisor has asked him to do and just complete things. Like complete packing and sorting and stuff like that.
Lillian: Tash, for instance, spent Friday mornings for an hour or so going to the local motel and helping clean up certain rooms with a certain regime. Some of them do post box drop where they walk around and deliver mail and whatnot. We’re teaching them life skills. We’re making them be involved as part of the community.
Kerryn Burgoyne: My suggestion for getting involved in work or employment is to start off with work experience or volunteer work enabling that person to go to work each day and navigate their way on public transport. Teach them independent living skills again. It’s very important. And then gradually work them up to a routine. A standard routine of say two days or three days a week. Say for five or six hours a day so you don’t overload them. For them, if they’re ready to work, to go to a disability employment agency. That agency needs to be educated on the individuals that they work with. And ask the individual what they want.
Katharine Annear (disability educator who has Asperger’s disorder): You’ve got to play to people’s strengths as well. So if they have a particular interest, try and find them a part time job in what they’re interested in. If it’s working in a train shop or cataloguing stuff in a CD shop.
Elena: Alex is quite good at computers. We may be able to start a TAFE course within his school year. So that’s one thing we might look at. I can kind of see more Alex in working in fast food or something more on that touch screen. He’s one that’s quite particular so I wouldn’t think that he would ever forget to put a burger in someone’s bag or something like that. Because he’s quite…very particular about getting things right.
Kerryn Burgoyne: Self-employment is another option for individuals with ASD. Teens and adults. This allows them to work in their own environment with the hours they want to work.
Katharine Annear: I have a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome and I put that to use by working with young people and families. Helping them navigate life. I also have a Masters Degree in Disability Studies. So I guess…I’ve taken my special interest and turned it into a career in helping people.
Kerryn Burgoyne: I actually train parents and carers in autism spectrum disorders. And teachers and integration aids as well and also the general community and I run self- help life courses as well.