As autistic children grow up, their parents may wonder how to help prepare their children for adulthood. They may ask: “Will my child be able to live on their own or will they need more regular care?”, “Will they have a social network and the support they need?”, “Will they be able to earn a living and support themselves with their disability?”. While autism may affect some differently than others, it’s important to note that all people with autism have protections and rights when it comes to employment.
When in school, most children with autism receive accommodations through an IEP or individualized education program. In the workforce, those protections are now created through the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the ADA. Understanding the ADA is a lot like creating an IEP. Parents can apply what they’ve learned from helping their children get through school to helping them find the right kind of job, employer, and accommodations.
The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of a disability. This includes all parts of the employment process— from recruiting and hiring, to everyday activities, to discipline and firing. When you’re helping your child find the right job, knowing the ADA’s protections can make the process easier. First, the ADA requires your child to be qualified for the job in question (this includes having the appropriate education or experience). Second, the ADA allows your child to receive accommodations to perform the essential duties of a job. Your child may not be discriminated against because of their disability or any way it manifests itself— as long as they are able to perform a job’s central requirements.
Some accommodations for people with autism include: providing advance notice of schedules or agendas, breaks for movement, noise-canceling headphones, a job coach to assist with organization, structured reminders for deadlines, sensory training of co-workers, or a fragrance-free environment.
When your child is interviewing, potential employers may not ask them if they have a disability. Some autistic people may have less trouble in an interview if they have the ability to practice or know questions ahead of time. Others may not be able to go through a traditional interview process. When helping your child find the right job, it is helpful to find resources and networks that work specifically to assist the disabled with job hunting.
Autism Speaks and ARC both offer resources for people with autism looking for assistance with employment. ARC offers up a directory of local agencies in your community that can offer direct services and information. In addition, the US Business Leadership Network is a nonprofit that works closely with businesses that hire the disabled and have disability-friendly workplaces. The Institute for Community Inclusion also has several resources that cover a wide variety of topics on employment for the disabled and their families.
With local resources and agencies, a support network, and preparation with your child, you can help them find a job that can truly enrich their life and yours. In addition, if you have any questions disability law and employment, feel free to contact PCW Law Firm.