This research paper provides a description of various personal skills and behaviors which are necessary for ensuring a successful transition from school to working places for people with autism. Much attention is paid to skills that enable successful integration into the working environment, understanding, and performance of the working tasks, communication with employers and co-workers. These skills are necessary for elimination of challenges during the transition period. Statistical information provided in this paper shows that these challenges arise because the existing transition methodologies are not planned and not realized in an appropriate manner. Different initiatives should be implemented for ensuring that school employees carry out their responsibilities of facilitating a smooth transition of individuals with ASD into adulthood and the working environment.
The current research paper is based on the information obtained from different researches, official statistical reports, and relevant internet sites. Qualitative analysis of obtained data ensures grounded understanding of the role of schools in the development of necessary skills and behaviors of individuals with ADS for the smooth transition from schools to work. In the process of data collection, some challenges concerning the number of employed individuals occurred. Majority of reports provide only general information without specification of problems which arise of individuals with ADS with different disabilities, gender or age. Consequently, only general figures concerning the employees are provided in this research paper.
Skills Necessary to Ensure a Smooth Transition to Work for People with Autism
Nowadays, many people with autism spectrum disorder have the ability to obtain work that they want. However, they still face considerable challenges on their career path even if they have the necessary knowledge. These people should have social skills which will enable them to understand, interact with other individuals and present their ideas to others in order to avoid any misunderstanding. Speech of such people should be clear and understandable. They should know how to follow instructions and support conversations by giving appropriate answers to asked questions. They should avoid repeated speaking on the same subject and repeat back verbatim of what was heard. Among other important social skills are the following: being interested in other people and surrounding environment, ability to terminate conversation when necessary, and control their angry outbursts (Autism Spectrum Disorders and the Transition to Adulthood, 2010). Developed organizational skills will help the person with ASD to get through his or her frustration while facing multiple tasks.
Sufficient level of pragmatic language contact is reflected in eye contact and ability to control facial expression and body posture. These people should not show an adverse reaction on certain stimuli which are not threatening them and eliminate self – injury behaviors for becoming a part of the working environment. At the same time, the appropriate reaction on painful and dangerous stimuli is extremely important for granting their safety. In general, people with ASD should be able to regulate their “emotional and behavioral responses, process of sensory information necessary for participation; have self–management skills, such as dressing, feeding, hygiene and sleep; be able to perform organization of task materials; independent work skills and group process abilities” (Asher et al., 2010)
In the majority of modern professions, people with autism spectrum disorder should know how to use a computer. Such skills like street crossing and ability to use public transportation cannot be directly connected with the future profession, but they are also very important because people with ASD should be able to get to their workplaces.
Challenges of Transiting from School to Place of Work
People with autism encounter various challenges when trying to transit from school to the workplace. These challenges are connected with unique disabilities and deviations of each person. Simpson (2001) stated that work, cooperation, and interaction with autistic individuals is sharpening because of “the countless permutations and combinations of social interactions, language, learning, sensory, and behavior deficits and excesses found in these individuals in combination with their wide range of abilities, developmental levels, isolated skills, and unique personalities”.
Difficulties arise from the primary stage of the hiring process. During interviews with the representatives of the human resource department and possible coworkers, social and communicational difficulties of people with ASD are considered as a serious barrier to job performance (Hendricks, 2010). Human resource managers often have doubts concerning hiring a person who “cannot read between lines, read facial expressions, and tone of voice” (Hendricks, 2010).
The quality of job performance of people with ASD can be lower than the performance of similar tasks by employees without this disability. This reflects problems with social interaction and self – reflection, inability to work with documents and executive functioning (Hendricks, 2010). Above mentioned challenges usually arise due to disabilities connected with “attention, motor planning, response shifting, and working memory” (Hendricks, 2010). People with ASD need considerable time to adapt to the changeable working environment and innovations in the working process. Notwithstanding the fact that the average intelligence level of these individuals is higher than intelligence level of common people, their personal deficiencies impede them to perform effective and efficient problem solving and organization of their work (Hendricks, 2010).
Often behaviors of people with ASD are not understood and perceived by their coworkers and employers. An employment barrier is caused by non – social actions and attitudes, like “tantrums, aggression, self –injury, property destruction, ritualistic behaviors, or pica” (Hendricks, 2010). Also, employers require the performance of tasks and work in a manner that is unreachable to individuals with ASD. They are expected to follow the company’s multi-faceted strategies and successfully perform various tasks.
New environment, the necessity to interact with a great variety of new individuals and solve numerous tasks, unreachable goals, and unobtainable requirements make people with ASD feel suppressed. This feeling gets worse by disabilities caused by their disease. For example, in the article Competitive Employment of Adults with Autism, it is stated that people with ASD suffer from increased anxiety because of their increased sensitivity to various sensory stimuli, like workplace noise (Burt et al., 1991).
The situation is sharpening because employers do not obtain sufficient and clear information concerning the ways of working with employees with autism and the benefits of employing such a person: “the relationships between and among government-funded programs are difficult to understand for business leaders, employers, and individuals with ASD and their families” (“Employment Think Tank”, 2012). Also, the character of disabilities caused by autism makes the hiring process a rather complex task because it is difficult for these people to work according to the established time schedule (for example, 8-hour shift). Moreover, nowadays numerous companies are working in challenging business situations. Companies operate in a cost-conscious and litigious environment. Hence, “concerns about rising health care costs, disability insurance, and worker’s compensation may hinder the recruitment of employees with disabilities, including those with autism” (“Employment Think Tank”, 2012).
Reaching positive employment outcomes becomes more difficult for these people because of numerous psychiatric disorders of individuals with autism, like anxiety and depression (Hendricks, 2010). However, understanding and support from the side of coworkers and employers may lower the risk of this behavior’s manifestation. Dawn Hendricks (2010) connected the absence of secondary disability of people with this disorder with their successful competitive employment. According to the study performed by researchers from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, people with autism who were independent on their working places and engaged into the working process rarely suffer from the reflection of autism (Gray, 2014).
Obtained Results and Discussion
Unsatisfactory Level of Transition for People with Autism
The existing methodologies of the transition of people with autism from school to work are not on a satisfactory level. This is supported by data obtained from various official investigations and researches. According to the information provided in Transition from School to Adulthood for Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders, only 32 percent of young people with autism from 23 to 26 years old are working for pay, compared to 59 percent of all respondents (Dawn & Paul, 2009). It is considered that about 50-75 percent of all adults who have ASD are unemployed (Hendricks, 2010). Also, these people face various work-related challenges connected with their disability, like frequent switching of the working place, and permanent adjusting to new working settings. The situation is sharpening by insufficient and unclear information concerning hiring and working with people with ASD. Provided figures show that people with disabilities are not ready to place working positions and perform working tasks, communicate with coworkers and employers. Also, this idea is supported by the outcomes of the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2. According to the official information, about 66 percent of youth with ASD found a working place after finishing education at school (Newman, Wagner, Cameto, & Knokey, 2009). However, only 47 percent of these individuals proceed working a few years later (Newman et al., 2009).
The existing methodologies of planning and realization of the transition of people with ASD are unsatisfactory because they do not provide the range of knowledge and skills, necessary for finding a working place and keeping it during a long period, intervention into the stuff and gaining success in the career. As it is mentioned in the Autism Job Challenge Addressed by Expanded Work Readiness Program, there is an insufficient amount of job pieces of training for individuals with ASD which are focused on the teaching of “the technical and intangible, social aspects of the job” (Disabled World, 2014). These people face considerable challenges to keep a working place even if they have sufficient knowledge and experience because of their inabilities to deal with the social norms.
Responsibilities of Schools for Ensuring Successful Transit of Students with ASD
Successful transit of students with ASD into adulthood can be reached by the development and realization of special transit plans. Core responsibilities towards students with ADS are the following: “facilitating the successful movement of high school-aged youth with disabilities from school to adult life” (The University of Maine Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies, 2013); it can be realized through development and implementation of the special transit plans. Related initiatives should contain result-oriented activities which are performed with taking into account student’s needs, perceptions and disabilities. Much attention should be paid to statement of specific and, at the same time, reachable goals and constant assessment of realization of plans. Thorough control of obtained results will enable constant assessment of the transition process and timely elimination of existing challenges. Accommodations, necessary for facilitating the improvement of social, communicative, occupational and living skills, can be mentioned in these plans for performing a relevant evaluation of the quality of provided services. Schools should ensure that the person with the ASD obtains high quality of various services and support necessary for helping him/her adjust to adulthood successfully.
These plans should be developed separately for each of them because each person has different reflections on autism. School employees are responsible for paying attention and covering the needs of each particular individual. Transition plans can form the background of the formation of annual goals of the course which should be precisely followed by the educators. Strong links between setting goals and education activities should be established in order to gain sufficient results and provide children with ASD a successful future.
Involving family members into the transition plan is very important. Individuals with ASD should be provided with constant support and facilitation of skills’ development necessary for a successful transition from school to a place of work. School employees should play an active part in interaction between family members, school employees, and personnel of special services for individuals with ASD to ensure that individuals with autism obtain necessary “emotional, vocational, educational, medical and community supports” (The University of Maine Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies, 2013).
Much attention should be paid to the establishment and realization of training practices. School personnel is responsible for the development of adaptability of individuals to changeable working conditions, and the ability to cooperate with employers and coworkers (Disabled World, 2014). Special employment practices in educational institutions should provide individuals with ASD – a real-life working experience, and will help to identify any challenges which may arise during the working process.
The current work provides a general understanding of skills and behaviors, necessary for the smooth transition of individuals with ASD into the working environment after completion of their education at school. These people should have appropriate social and occupation skills to intervene in the working environment, communication with others and the performance of their working tasks. They should control their emotions and body position. Unfortunately, nowadays, educational institutions do not develop and realize procedures necessary for development the abovementioned skills on the appropriate level, necessary for the successful intervention of individuals with ASD into the adulthood and finding a working place. Consequently, the rate of unemployment of individuals with ASD is higher than the rate of unemployment of people without this disability. Existing transition methodologies should be improved for enabling educational institutions to perform their responsibilities of development and facilitating skills and behaviors necessary for a smooth transition of people with ASD into the working process and the society.
The current research paper is based on the information taken from various investigations, official reports, and guides. Skills and behaviors which are necessary for a successful transition into the adulthood and finding a working place are summarized in the report by Virginia Department of Education (2010) and in the article prepared by Simpson (2001).
Dawn Hendricks (2010) in his work Employment and Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Challenges and Strategies for Success described challenges which occurred during the process of hiring and employment of individuals with ASD. Description of anxieties is shown by Burt et al. (1991). Dawn Hendricks (2010) also proposed relevant recommendations of improvement of the current transition programs. These challenges arise due to several reasons. The first reason is the unwillingness of employees to hire people with ASD described in Employment Think Tank. One more reason is the unsatisfactory level of existing transition practices which do not enable successful intervention of people with autism into the society and the working environment. It is supported by statistical information provided in The Post-High School Outcomes of Youth with Disabilities up to 4 Years After High School and Transition from School to Adulthood for Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Articles Autism Job Challenge Addresses by Expanded Work Readiness Program, Transition Planning. Also, Dawn Hendricks (2010) described responsibilities and recommendations to educational institutions directed on providing people with autism with sufficient pieces of training, necessary for development above mentioned skills and behaviors.