Friday, May 1, 2015

The Autism Job Club: Don't judge a book by its cover

I just found out about a new book called The Autism Job Club on a post on The Age of Autism.This book is promoted there and elsewhere as a book that can actually help people on the spectrum find jobs.  As soon as I found out about this book, I felt I had to go to the local bookstore and purchase a copy and read it.  I spent a good portion of my day yesterday doing just that. 

One of the authors has an autistic son now in his early twenties and writes about the frustration in helping his son find work.  He also talks about an actual club of jobseekers in the San Francisco area where people on the spectrum brainstorm about employment strategies.  None of the clubs members have actual jobs but most of them have their own businesses which appear to be floundering.  Two people have a handyman business, one female member has a pet sitting business, etc. 

After his son was fired from multiple jobs, the author finally found someone sympathetic to people on the spectrum who employs his son part-time as an office worker and apparently does not mind that he makes excessive mistakes, something Gadfly is skeptical about.

The book also mentions certain members of the neurodiversity movement and seems to have a somewhat pro-neurodiversity attitude.

He talks about places such as Wal-Mart and Best Buy who have made an active effort to employ autistic people.

Also mentioned are Specialistirne and other startups that were designed to employ autistic people.  Interestingly, the author writes about how Specialistirne was subsidized by the Danish government  and how they tried to start up in the USA, funded by a grant, but couldn't get anywhere.  Other software testing firms that started with the intent of helping autistic people work faced similar challenges. 

The book talks about the stereotypes of autistic people having strong attention to details, having technical, math or computer aptitudes but at the same time, gives examples of people with autism who are fired due to making excessive errors due to poor concentration as well as the problems with the tech firms I discussed above.  They also say that autistic people might make good employees because of loyalty but don't show any evidence that this is anything more than a stereotype. 

They also discuss the jobs that Freddie Mac has offered through the autistic self advocacy network's influence.  However, these are for all very high functioning autistics or members of neurodiversity who are possibly self diagnosed at least in some cases. 

Other than disclosure, the book really offers no solutions to help autistic people find and keep work.  The one time I tried disclosure it did not help me.  Other jobs I have kept for a while without disclosure.  I don't believe disclosure is very helpful.  It might be hard to avoid in some situations, but I don't believe it will really make a difference in helping an autistic person find and keep a job.  If the person has problems that make them an unsatisfactory employee, behavior or excessive errors, it is not going to make the employer sympathetic and want to keep them on.  If you disclose your disability at a job, it could well prejudice you. 

The book also gives some dry and technical minutia about the employment markets and changes that have nothing to do with autism. 

The lessons or moral is really that there are no easy quick fix answers to the problems of unemployment among autistic people and that you can't judge a book by its cover.