Employment and the Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders


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“One barrier to employment can be sensory sensitivity problems. You are really in a mess if you cannot tolerate a normal office environment”.

Dr. Temple Grandin, a prominent author and speaker on both autism and animal behavior. Dr. Grandin is also a person with autism.

Experience Sensory sensitivities through Carly's eyes.

Carly’s Cafe is gives a realistic simulation of how an individuals with a sensory sensitivity can view the world and how they take in the environment around them. This video can be used as a tool to open the conversation to individuals on spectrum coworkers’ or support team to understand a part of what they are feeling in different work environments and why it's crucial that sensory needs are supported.

What is Sensory Processing?

Sensory Processing helps individuals understand the environment and also helps regulate the responses to the environment. Simply, this means that sensory processing allows a person to:

  • Take in information from the environment
  • Process the information
  • Create a Needed Action

This process is done unconsciously and consciously, every day in all aspects of a youth’s schedule.

Everyone learns best when senses are activated and there is a meaningful connection to the content being taught as well as the information available. Youth and adults excel when their “sensory bucket” is full. This means they can think, learn, work, interact, and behave more efficiently and adapt more effectively when their sensory systems are not challenged as they work to process information in the environment. This requires the ‘just right’ access to needed sensory input and experiences as well as the limiting of sensory experiences that are painful and draining.

Sensory Bucket Illustration

To achieve this balance, strategies and accommodations may be necessary. (Examples strategies and interventions are offered later in this guideline). When the conditions and supports are right, individuals are prepared for the daily demands and are able to proactively navigate situations that may deplete their “sensory bucket.”

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