Thursday, April 25, 2013
Dear Ms. Weigand:
We would like to thank you for your article, “Pa. Autism Services Hope to Make Inroads in Workplace” (March 11, 2013), which brought to light a mounting crisis faced by the autism community. Important concerns were highlighted confronting many families and individuals entering the job market.
It is imperative for the public to become more aware of how many people from this population require employment. Moreover, with one in 88 children being diagnosed, the number of students graduating from high school each year will likely climb. Society can benefit greatly when these individuals are integrated into the work force and they are able to exercise their independence and contribute to their communities both economically and socially. We would also like to emphasize the importance of gainful employment in promoting a high quality of life for individuals with autism and their parents who understandably worry about their children’s future.
We appreciate your touching example of a family encountering these challenges. Carolyn Lah’s statement, “I don’t know how people do it [access services] who have other things on their plate and aren’t as good at working the system” pointedly indicates the need for a savvy parent or advocate who can search for and access the limited number of services available for individuals with autism. It is true that support is often lacking in reaching employment goals, and that the specific deficits that this population exhibit can impact their ability to effectively write a resume, search for a job, and meet success at a workplace. Although there are a handful of schools which comprehensively address vocational skills in their curricula, ideally this should be a requirement across all school programs. Attention to post-graduation employment should be begun early, carried out extensively, and planned meaningfully. Specific skills that could be targeted are time management, problem solving, getting to and from work, and interpersonal skills such as interacting effectively with co-workers and managing work-related conflict.
It is extremely important that more services be created to support the autism population in the job market. As your article suggested, the few services that are available are unevenly distributed across North America, making accessibility for countless individuals very difficult. Pennsylvania’s Autism Services, Education, Resource and Training center (ASERT) appears to be an excellent example of the type of services that are necessary in more states and provinces. As ASERT advised, ensuring that families and professionals have adequate training in best practices is essential. Additionally, businesses should be educated as to the possible benefits of employing persons with autism in an attempt to dispel possible uncertainty or hesitancy when presented with the opportunity of hiring such an individual.
We value your informative and timely article as it reveals the importance of increasing awareness regarding the obstacles these families and individuals currently experience in the job market. It will become increasingly necessary for services to be established in order for the growing population of individuals with autism to find gainful employment and in turn, a higher quality of life.
Mary Philips, MEd, BCBA and David Celiberti, PhD, BCBA-D
Association for Science in Autism Treatment