Employment and the Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Communication and Socialization Considerations for Assessment and Employment

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The considerations and implications related to communication and socialization in the workplace are critical for anyone to understand and address to successfully maintain employment. Interestingly, employers may assume adults come to the job with these skills in place and focus support and direction on the development of specific job skills and not on social and communication skills. However, these skills are often the most difficult for a person with ASD to understand and use, especially when entering new situations with new social norms and expectations. These skills include the art of Perspective-Taking which is the ability to see a situation from someone else’s viewpoint. This is the cornerstone of social relationships, which also includes communication and is related to the “Hidden Curriculum”.

Perspective Taking Slide

The “Hidden Curriculum” is often a challenge for individuals with ASD. The Hidden Curriculum is ‘what everyone knows and no one is taught’. These skills and knowledge are often associated with the social and communication expectations. Individuals with ASD frequently need support to identify the "hidden curriculum" of employment and as well as to remember the social expectations. For example, reading the boss’s body language and understanding his facial expressions may need to be explicitly taught to the employee with ASD while others may just ‘figure it out’. Being aware of the the unspoken rules of break time or lunchtime may be missed by someone with ASD, while others are keenly aware from observing the situation. Included in the strategy tab for communication and socialization are suggestions for teaching the Hidden Curriculum.

Keep in mind the following considerations when entering and planning for employment environments.

Social and Communication Expectations and Norms

  • What are the expectations for social competence and communication skill for the job or career? What is the tolerance level to
  • Will the individual’s current social competency impact success on the job?
  • Will the expected communication styles vary from supervisor to coworker to customer?
  • How well does the individual read facial expressions and body language?
  • Do written guidelines for social ‘behavior’ on the job exist as a place to start for priming and teaching the expectations?

Following Directions

  • Is the individual able to follow the directions and instructions typical to the workplace environment
  • How many directions can the individual process and follow in one interaction?
  • Are directions and instructions consistent or do they change frequently?
  • Are written directions (or other alternative formats) available for the person?

Hidden Curriculum

  • What are the most important “Hidden Curriculum of the work environment?
  • What would be the impact of not following the Hidden Curriculum? Upset coworkers or customers?
  • Reduction in Job satisfaction? Decreased options for job advancement? Would the person be fired?
  • Does the individual recognize the Hidden Curriculum?
  • Does he individual understand how to navigate the situations in the Hidden Curriculum?


  • What types of social instruction, social supports and social cueing does the individual required to successfully complete the job?
  • Will the individual require pre-teaching or targeted preparation for the social and communication environment?
  • Are coworkers willing to assist the individual to learn the social norms as a natural job support
  • Remember, teaching social and communications skills are evidence-based secondary transition practices and should be considered part of employment preparation.

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