Tuesday, May 27, 2014

More Words of Wisdom on Autistic Unemployment

I was interested in reading yet another article giving easy and simplistic solutions on the problems of unemployment among autistic people entitled How the Hiring Process Marginalizes Candidates on The Autism Spectrum.  The article starts out claiming that half a million persons with autism are educated and hirable.  I'm not sure where this half a million figure comes from and the article does not explain it.

The article starts out misrepresenting the 1 in 68 number, as do so many people who write about autism.  It claims that many of these autistic go on to higher education and are employable, but are unemployed because societal constraints on the hiring process.

The article quotes Marcia Scheiner, president and founder of the organization ASTEP (Asperger Syndrome Training and Employment Program) who discusses how important doing well on an interview is to the hiring process and how persons on the spectrum are at a disadvantage because they don't interview well.  I've written about ASTEPpreviously if the interested reader is curious about this organization.

I question how many persons on the spectrum (regardless of whether they have asperger's or autism) really have qualifications right out of college which would enable them to do a variety of jobs.  Jobs requiring no paid experience are few and far between, particularly in a bad economy.

If a person has the skill set, I believe they can be hired for a lot of different jobs, despite lack of interviewing skills.  I worked sporadically as a medical transcriptionist between 1986 and 2007.  To get my foot in the door I had to do piecework as an independent contractor at less than minimum wage.  Once I garnered some experience, I was able to get other transcription gigs.  No one did extensive interviewing of me for these positions.  They were easily able to administer tests to gauge my ability to do the job by giving me a report to transcribe.  If you can pass tests like these, you have the job, in spite of a poor ability to interview.

When I was trying to get into the computer field, lack of education and experience led me to fail a test in one company I applied for, that did not get me the job.

I know of one individual on the spectrum who has a math degree and has tried to become an insurance actuary but has failed the preliminary exam which can get you hired.  What difference does it make whether he can interview or not?

I know of another individual on the spectrum who stammers when he speaks and probably would not be counted as someone who could do well at job interviews, yet he has had a number of jobs, albeit menial ones.  Apparently lack of interviewing skills did not stop him.

One of the main problems I have with this piece, it only addresses autistics who graduate from college (or possibly a vocational school) and not others who will never do that.  The majority of person on the spectrum probably have disabilities that would prevent them for acquiring a skill set, regardless of any alleged societal constraints.  

What about when someone with autism is hired, presuming they have the skill set?  Do they have an ability to get along with coworkers?  Do they have overly loud voices which would be unpleasant for others and prompt their dismissal from the job?  Would they have executive functioning problems which might preclude good hygiene and result in their being fired?  Neither the author of this piece nor Marcia Scheiner address this issue.

I believe the best possible way for a person on the spectrum, assuming they can achieve the higher education and the skill set, is to become as skilled as possible in a profession by practice and possibly doing an unpaid internship.  This is far more sensible than the ridiculous notion of changing society and getting them to overlook an interview process which probably would not even be relevant in hiring if the person had the skill set.

Again, there are no simplistic or easy answers to this. 


Shanti said...

Thanks again for your insights. It isn't rocket science to figure out that all the acceptance in the world is not going to change the core difficulties for many people with autism! Finding and keeping a good job is not just about interviews. As with all areas of self-reliance and independent living, it is much more complicated than that.

jonathan said...

Thanks for your nice comment, Shanti. However, if what you say is the case, then I don't understand why the neurodiversity movement has a role in our government and autism policy implementation and why it has any credibility. Guess there are some things I won't ever understand.

W ford said...

I am a legit high functioning autistic who lost several jobs due to medical reasons yes unemployment is a big autism issue. For example I was hospitaised at lac usc medical center in January with low blood sugar for 3 days and had to quit the sheltered workshop in la Puente ca due to the strenuous work of landscaping.