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World: On the job market, with autism

Wed, 07 Feb 2018, 12:10 PM

Michael S. Bernick & Richard Holden, Salon, 6 February 2018
 
On the first Saturday of each month, the Bay Area Autism Job Club gathers at the ARC building, located at 11th and Howard in San Francisco’s South of Market area. Fifteen or so adults with autism are in attendance, ranging in age from early twenties to fifties, and even one member, James Ullrey, age 72.
 
It is not easy to see the Autism Job Club as the vanguard of change for workers with autism. At the meetings, club members will laugh inap­propriately or talk to themselves, go off topic, stare into space, wander around. Though many of the members have at least some college educa­tion—and a significant number have college degrees—they all are on the employment margins. Some are unemployed; most have part-time or contingent lower wage employment. The club meetings focus on relatively basic job search skills, résumé skills, and interviewing skills.
 
Yet, the Autism Job Club, and hundreds of other local groups across the United States, are experimenting with new employment projects and structures for workers with autism and other neurodi­verse conditions—cerebral palsy, dyslexia, learning disabilities. It is an effort pushed forward by the unsustainable rise in costs of govern­ment disability programs, changing social views, and most of all, the fierce energy and extra-governmental efforts of families and friends of workers with neurodiverse conditions.
 
Autism: A True Spectrum
 
“If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism,” Temple Grandin responds when asked about the charac­teristics of persons with autism. Ms. Grandin, a professor of animal science and inventor who was diagnosed with autism as a child, has been a presence in the autism community nationwide since the early 1980s, with separate memoirs published in 1986 ("Emergence: Labeled Autistic") and 1996 ("Thinking in Pictures"). She became known to a wider population in 2010 through the movie, "Temple Grandin," in which she was portrayed by actress Claire Danes.
 
Adults with autism span a wide range of skills, abilities, education levels, and interests. Much of the conventional wisdom regarding work skills and deficiencies of persons on the spectrum is wrong. Adults on the spectrum, for example, do not all excel in areas of math or science (most don’t) or are “little geniuses.” At the same time, adults on the spectrum are not all plagued by social isolation or difficulties/a lack of interest in workplace relations (many are very social).
 
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Read: the full article at Salon
 

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