The Challenge

The High School Career Challenge

While any young adult
entering the workforce today encounters significant barriers
to entry, those with
Asperger’s Syndrome (ASD)
face even more difficulty.

The Challenge: Getting a Job

At the milder end of the autism spectrum, those diagnosed with Asperger’s have normal to high intelligence, but have trouble understanding and navigating the social world we all inhabit. Their difficulty with interpreting the subtle cues of social situations puts them at a particular disadvantage in job interviews and at work.

Any number of common ASD sensitivities (such as to fluorescent lighting, sounds, etc.) can also make a normal work environment highly stressful. Training tailored to the ASD person’s cognitive strengths and challenges can boost their confidence and increase their odds for success.

A consortium of 6 mid-Michigan organizations considered the basic skills required to successfully enter the job market. The High School Career Challenge offered paid summer jobs, job coaching, life coaching and a short college course in computers.

The computer classes at Mott Community College taught Flash animation. The class introduced students to the goals and requirements for attending a college class. For Alex and me, as instructors, our focus was on observing students’ ability to learn complex software and apply new skills to a real world task.

Life Coaching focused on disability awareness, disability disclosure and self-advocacy. Students learned what is considered reasonable accommodations, and practiced how to ask.

Paid summer jobs were an important part of the High School Career Challenge. Students participated in three-week rotations at different work sites. Employment skills were taught “on the job”, with coaching provided on site by Work Skills Corporation.