Syndrome: Put Those Kids To Work!
By Dan Coulter
©2004 All Rights Reserved
We'd do anything for our kids with Asperger Syndrome.
Is that always a good thing? Hmmmmmm. Hard to say. It's good if
we can figure
out what we need to do for our kids versus what they need to do for
And that's not always easy. Maybe an outside view would be good. I
the director of a high school job placement program for special
needs kids and
she laid it on the line, "I think these kids are too
They need to do more for themselves."
You should know that this program director, Mary Beth Berry, cares
about her charges. She's amazingly persuasive at getting employers
to give the
kids in her program real work experience during part of their school
an expert at job coaching and building confidence. I respect her
How many of us sometimes think of our kids as chicks with broken
many sometimes have horrible visions of plummeting crashes if we
push them out
of the nest to do things on their own?
Let's think back on our lives. Didn't we learn some of our most
lessons from our failures? Are our kids really that fragile? Sure,
thoughtless people in the world, but there are also great, helpful
there. And we're not going to be around forever. And our kids
until they try.
Another job expert I spoke with, Asperger Syndrome advocate Dr.
talked about helping a young man learn to ride the train to work.
about it. They rode the train together. But finally the day came
young man had to ride to work alone. Peter said that if he could
have run next
to the train all the way to the job, he would have. But it went
fine. And that
daily commute became a normal part of the young man's work life.
As Peter says, work is a defining characteristic of our lives. One
of the first
questions we're asked when we meet someone is, "What do you do for a
If people with Asperger Syndrome don't have the opportunity to work,
off from a key part of life, not to mention a way to support
Okay, we're all sold on the importance of work. Now here's part
two. And it's
a biggie. We want our sons and daughters to work. They want to
work. But how
do they find and hold a job? Unemployment is distressingly high
with AS. How do you beat the odds?
You start early.
Take the attitude that your child, at whatever skill level, is going
Talk about jobs and get him thinking about what he'd like to do.
Does your son
want to do something that sounds impossible? Be realistic, but aim
may not become an astronaut, but maybe he could work at NASA, or
maybe at an
airport. Of course, some people may be extremely happy filing
reports for a
living, and that's great, especially if organizing is your child's
Our kids tend to have intense special interests and often have
abilities. If we can channel these qualities into a paying career,
the motherlode. So wherever you go, encourage your daughter to look
working and consider if she'd like those jobs. Encourage her to
people about their jobs. What are the job's responsibilities and
education or training do you need? What are the good and bad things
Help your kids understand the job interview process and what an
looking for. Get a book or magazine about applying for a job and
children learn the process. Help them learn to realistically
strengths and challenges and how to advocate for themselves.
Most of all, get them some work experience as soon as possible.
Paid or unpaid.
During school vacations, if just managing schoolwork is
all-consuming. The best
way to learn work skills is to work, whether your child is going
high school to a job, or plans on going to college or vocational
Remember, there's a lot more to working than specific job duties. A
of a job can be arriving on time, following directions, staying on
safety procedures, getting along with co-workers and other
Let's revisit the chick-from-the-nest analogy. The best crash
avoidance we can
offer is flight training. We can make sure that our kids'
Plans include transition planning beginning at age 14 as required by
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. We can work with our
and with social service agencies to help our kids find part-time
their high school years with understanding employers. Job coaches
can help our
kids learn a job until they're ready to go solo.
And we can train our kids to increasingly advocate for themselves so
they look for a job on their own, they can present themselves as the
capable, hardworking employees businesses want to hire. And, if
can educate their employers about how AS affects them and negotiate
We won't go into detail here discussing the Americans with
reasonable accommodations and disclosure issues. Think of that as
Today, let's just get determined to get our sons and daughters real
experience as early as possible.
When my son was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, my wife and I had
a lot of
questions, including: could he ever hold a job? Now, he's a veteran
successful part-time jobs and is working toward a career in forensic
He's already accomplished more than we - in our worst moments - ever
possible. Here's a lesson: don't let your worst fears limit your
Let's give them some preparation, give them some safety nets, but
get them out
there - and give them the chance to blast past our expectations.
Copyright 2004 Dan
Coulter Reprinted with Permission.
Dan Coulter is the writer/producer of the videos, "ASPERGER
to Work" and "ASPERGER SYNDROME: Transition to College and Work."
more articles on Asperger Syndrome posted on his website: