Employment and the Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Mariah's Path to Employment

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Mariah, an 18-year-old high school student, participated in a paid community work experience in a large popular consignment shop in her community. This environment appeared to be a good match for Mariah as she was very intrigued with the many items that came into the shop for sale which motivated her to work. The job required her to do as many as 16 job tasks throughout the week, which she was able to complete with varying degrees of assistance from the job coach. The other five other employees in the shop worked well with Mariah on routine tasks and activities and tried to include her in conversations, although it was often awkward and uncomfortable for Mariah.

Although the job seemed to be a good fit in many ways, Mariah did encounter some challenges.

  • Unexpected changes could sometimes occur leading to changes her daily plans and tasks, sometimes unexpectedly. This could cause her to become anxious, somewhat upset and to have difficulty completing tasks.
  • Social situations were difficult to navigate. Small talk and multiple questions that she did not anticipate made her nervous. She found it difficult to remember the ‘rules’ for interacting with the boss vs. coworkers vs. customers. Sometimes she saw her coworkers talking very informally to some customers but not others. Mariah tended to be very quiet and withdraw from interactions when possible.
  • Sensory sensitivities in the environment could be overwhelming. Noises and crowded locations could cause her to feel anxious. Without some planned strategies, Mariah was not sure she could complete all the job responsibilities.
  • Independence. Although Mariah could follow the instructions of the job coach and learned many tasks, she struggled at times to remember how to begin, work through or complete some of the jobs without relying on the job coach.

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