Social advocacy for adults with Autism seeking employment

Published 10:57 am Thursday, March 22, 2018

To the Editor:

As an educator in the Roanoke -Chowan area for over ten years who wishes to serve as a school counselor, it is my goal to bring awareness about the need to help adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in our community.

Can you remember the pride of having your first job? The excitement of having self-dependence from your parents? Knowing the value of your self-worth? Positioning yourself for the next stage of life? If so, take a few minutes to ponder the career aspects of those who are less fortunate in their aspirations seeking employment and need the support of our community.

As an educator who has witnessed children grow into adulthood, I notice that we as a community tend to overlook those adults who have developmental disabilities when it comes to actively employing them in our rural communities. Specifically, those who are identified with ASD.

You have probably heard of Autism and there a good chance you may know of someone who has this disorder. For some of you out there, you are living with someone whom you witness conquer this label every day.

While it is unknown what causes Autism, we do know that it is a condition that presents itself early in the lifecycle. In general, it is a condition that refers to a range of challenges that individuals exhibit with daily activities such as social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by many unique strengths and differences.

Do all individuals have limited verbal skills? Do all individuals have limited social skills around others? Are all individuals in need of constant supervision? The answer to all of these questions is no! The term spectrum refers to a wide range of high functioning and low functioning individual attributes. What is true about individuals with autism is that they do have a “spectrum” of unique abilities. These abilities may include exceptional long-term memory, impressive math skills, creative thinking, an eye for detail, enhanced motion perception, and completing repetitive tasks.

Individuals with Autism have the same needs as other candidates entering the workforce. Finding a job, locating housing, making friends, and becoming apart of our community. While it is unknown what specific daily tasks each individual may experience in the “spectrum”, what can be noted is that individuals with autism tend to be reliable and loyal employees. According to the National Autistic Society, these individuals are punctual, reliable, honest, and very committed to their work. We as a community must include these individuals into our workforce and accept them for who they are, unique individuals with unique talents and abilities.

It is my intention to plant a seed in the minds of those reading this to accept those with developmental disorders such as ASD find employment and attain a future that embraces them in our community. This is not to say that these individuals have been abandoned by local employers but rather to bring awareness that they should not be overlooked as perspective employees.

What can you do? You can be part of the solution. Support diversity in the workplace, support organizations such as Easter Seals, which advocate for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, hire individuals with autism, and patronize those businesses who employ these individuals. Autism is more than a developmental disorder, but rather a unique set of attributes that can improve our work spaces across the Roanoke-Chowan area.

William D. Alexander