Job Training for Adults on the Autism Spectrum

May 17, 2012

“One in three adults with autism lack professional experience, worrying experts…” (CBS News Staff, 2012)

This article includes an observation by a policy specialist about the need for increased job training for people on the Autism Spectrum. This comment concerns us because it seems to assume that offering more of the same training is the solution. Do they also think that repeating what you say in a louder voice is a sure way for a non-English speaker to understand you?  Training does not assure skills are acquired, applied, transferred and adapted beyond the original training setting.

The general assumption of the word” learning” is that someone has gained knowledge, skills and behaviors. Learning is what happens when information is received, absorbed and integrated for future use. Learning is an internal process requiring physical/mental health, social/emotional support and developed communication abilities. It is also a personal choice heavily influenced by many factors (for instance tired, hungry, cold, homeless, neurologically different, alone).

The general assumption of the word teaching (training) is the delivery of knowledge and skills. Teaching is what happens when facts are organized, tailored and presented. Teaching is an external process independent from the learner.

Let’s start by improving training for the decision makers about the services needed and funding necessary for tomorrow’s workforce. Let’s educate curriculum developers to know how much time and attention is required to learn particularly when you are confronted by mother nature with different neurology instead of only focusing on the time necessary to teach and test. Effective job training requires knowledge and skills to build successful relationships not just technical skills. It starts from the moment a person enters into the world and grows with every interaction. Take for example, a typically developing two year old that will intuitively modify their speech when talking to a person with a hearing loss. Children with neurological differences often are shuttled to specialists and live in relatively protected environments because people don’t always understand them, judge them and critique their parents giving them little time to experience the world like their neurotypical peers. Society needs training on how to include children with neurological differences and support these brave families.

Job training in a school setting starts at PPCD (Pre-School Programs for Children with Disabilities) not in high school. Job training is not another class to take or something in lieu of college. Consider how much more effective training programs could be if the scope of the needs of people with neurological differences were truly understood. Consider building emotional regulation, personal accountability, awareness of self and others into daily living skills curriculum. Consider building conversation and purposeful, mindful communication into daily living skills curriculum. Consider what could be accomplished if we lifted the veil of paperwork and allowed students to self-actualize guided by teachers with time to connect with each of them.

There are several of you out there who will say that it is being done. Our question is if it is being done why do so many students with neurological differences receive training that does not allow them sustainable employment?

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