Some individuals come to us with paid work experience and others do not. For those who do not, non-paid employment (volunteering) is a good way to establish what skills are lacking in order to move toward paid employment. While doing this, it is important to evaluate if there is an avenue of employment that incorporates interests - which may border on obsessions for individuals with autism. Although this is not always possible, we find the most success when it is. We have focused interests in computers into paid employment at computer recycling centers, interests in cleaning dishes into paid conference center work and interests in cooking into paid restaurant work. As with all individuals, regardless of disability, careers last longer and are more successful if the person has a deep interest in their profession. However, even when this is not possible, paid employment can be successful.
All workers, regardless of disability, are also subject to economic conditions beyond their control. COVID-19 affected the work lives of most people around the world, including those with disabilities. Weathering such storms is part of having paid employment. In addition to these economic conditions, individuals with disabilities have the challenge of understanding how paid employment will affect their government benefits. While government benefits provide more stability during times of change, it is much more difficult to understand the effects of changes. We have found the most effective way of dealing with this is to have families help one another understand the complicated system and explain requirements to their adult children. We also encourage family members and those we serve to attend local educational presentations hosted by government agencies. If greater needs arise, families can obtain help from our on-staff attorney.
We are grateful to all of the businesses that have hired and continue to employ those we serve. Businesses who embrace diversity in their workforce, including employing those with disabilities, reap the benefits. However, the benefits are not always obvious to potential employers. It is part of our job to help them see the advantages of diversity and to provide the continued support to ensure the job placement is a long-term success. Some of the businesses that have supported us in this effort include Kroger, Life Care Alliance and Hilton Hotels and Conference Centers. In addition, many local businesses have welcomed the individuals we serve as paid employees.