Employment and the Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Employment Defined

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What Is Employment?

This seems like a simple question with a simple answer. However, exploring this question uncovers a number of issues that are important to understand when planning and supporting career and job development.

When exploring employment, several terms may surface that describe a specific type of employment. The description explains the unique features of the employment model or design. Some reflect models that require specialized support. Some reflect models that are located in the community and some are in more segregated environments. Group employment is a feature in some models. Additional information is available about these employment types in the following tab, “Employment Terms and Definitions”.

Although people with disabilities, including those with ASD, have engaged in all types of employment, in past years many were ‘placed’ in segregated, sheltered environments, doing repetitive tasks, for extremely low wages. This situation lead many self-advocates, agencies, families, and communities to question the practice and raised concerns about low expectations. The landscape was right for change!

Conversations emerged in recent years regarding the type of employment that should be the ‘priority’ employment for people with disabilities. In an effort to avoid the all-too-common practice of pre-determination of sheltered employment and low wages, many states and federal agencies have identified ‘competitive integrated employment’ as the priority employment goal for adult employment. This means that agency supports and services will first consider and strive to allow each and every person to achieve community employment. However, it does not mean that there are no other adult outcomes that an agency can support. And it does not mean that it is the only type of employment people may experience. People can and should have the choice to engage in the type of employment that is the best fit for them. However, we must have high expectations and begin the path to employment by assuming that integrated, well-paid, community employment is an option for all people, including those with ASD.

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