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. 


willie said...

The regional centers have a job club but few get jobs despite attending for months. This includes mild moderate DD people including real high functioning autism. I attended that crat pot job club and did not get a job. This book ostensibly helps even less than a real job club and the liberals gone bad in the DD services are against sheltered workshops though a few day programs give you a few hours to work a day and make some money.

lurker said...

I'm even surprised a book with such an outlook has come out admitting such pitfalls, which contrasts with the currently hyped narrative of autistics only having trivial social barriers, needlessly preventing them from working as perfectly qualified employees. It's not often enough considered that employers/co-workers can't necessarily prop up disabled employees' performance all the time. They're already busy and have other individuals to look after and deal with. My job situations deteriorated because I couldn't stop messing up, and I often couldn't catch on well enough. I couldn't compete with it, as they cut back my hours and work tasks for me to do. I didn't have a job coach who was helpful at all, even after over 2 years of looking for such job resources.

Unknown said...

Jonathan: You raise good questions concerning the book, and employment in general not only for adults with autism, but for all adults. So let me say a few words in response.

The book does not provide the magic technique for getting a job. Any book that promises to do so is not worth reading. What the book does do is describe some of the strategies tried so far, and their results. It also tries to address broader directions for the job world. Adults with autism operate in the same job world as all workers, and it is important to understand what jobs are being created, and how the structures of employment are changing.

I agree with you that there remains a gap between the theories of neurodiversity and current unemployment levels of adults with autism. It will be a gradual process, mainly of testing strategies on a local level to change this. But social mores are changing, as are the demographics.

jonathan said...

Michael Bernick: Thanks for your comments on my blog. It's been a little while since I read your book and wrote the post, but I do seem to remember various blurbs on age of autism, amazon and other sites billed your book as providing solutions to obtaining employment for autistic people. Other than disclosure (a method which I know is ineffective due not only to common sense, but having tried it and being a person on the spectrum in the work force for nearly 28 years) you really offer no solutions at all, but really describe the problem. I was interested to read about specialistirne's being ineffective as I've suspected the media has ballyhooed them. Adults with autism indeed operate in the same job world, but you're naive if you think anything is going to change this or there are any quick or easy answers. Social mores, changing or stable, are not going to help people with autism.

I'm not sure how much you know about me, but I am a 59-year-old autistic man who worked sporadically for nearly twenty-eight years, was fired from multiple jobs and had a frustrating time so I believe, at the risk of being immodest, I know as much as anyone about the process.

Thanks again for reading my post and commenting.

Anonymous said...

Your view of autism needing a cure is horrible and wrong. You have no respect for peoples' autonomy at all, do you?

jonathan said...

I have absolute respect for everyone's autonomy including yours. If you want to remain a wingnut that's your prerogative