This blog is part eight of Transitions’ series on Qualities Employers Look for in Job Candidates. Every person has something great to offer a workplace, including young people with autism and learning disabilities. There are certain universal qualities that all top employees possess, regardless of their industry or job level. This series will present a few of those qualities and the ways in which you as a parent, teacher or service provider can help teach them to the young adult in your life with autism or other learning disabilities.
This week’s installment covers a quality ideally present in all self-sufficient, well-adjusted, successful adults: independence.
Having a job means that one must be prepared to act and be treated as an adult, independent of parents or other structured supports. While everyone needs to be able to rely on others for support sometimes, ideal job candidates need to be able to make decisions and move through their day independently. This not only includes completing all their work by themselves, but also being able to manage all the responsibilities that an employer would expect from any employee without prompting or handholding. An independent employee:
- Can be trusted to complete all their work from start to finish without needing repeated verbal instructions, excessive reminders or continuous supervision
- Has a reliable way of getting to work on time every day
- Can manage basic daily tasks on their own
- Can manage their paychecks without assistance
- Always maintains a professional appearance
How You Can Help:
- At home, involve young adults in as many aspects of taking care of themselves and their homes as possible, from cooking meals and performing basic home maintenance to making their own appointments and practicing good self-care habits. These things will help them conduct themselves confidently among other professional adults.
- Bring young adults into the community and show them how to navigate, read maps, use GPS devices and map apps, take public transportation and hire taxis so they can move through the world safely and independently.
- Demonstrate to young adults how to cash or deposit paychecks. Help them open checking and savings accounts and teach them how to maintain them and save and spend their money responsibly using written ledgers and budgeting apps.
- Support your young adults to study for their driver’s permit tests and go through the process of obtaining their driver’s license, if possible. There are services such as ACCES-VR and specialized driving programs that can also help with this.
- Some organizations, ACCES-VR included, can help with obtaining funding to hire a job coach. Job coaches are not a sign of a lack of independence, but instead a resource that helps employees rely less on their supervisors and coworkers.
- Support the young adult to advocate for any accommodations they need to be able to do their jobs independently. For example, a student at Transitions who works as an administrative assistant and uses a wheelchair advocated for a lower copy machine at work so she could do her job without needing the help of others to perform the basic task of making copies.
- Always emphasize the importance of professional appearance whenever the young adult leaves the house, including dressing for success and maintaining good personal grooming habits.
There are many skills that go into being able to function independently, which is why this quality can be the most difficult to master. To avoid overwhelming your young adult, try focusing on one skill or category of skill at a time until they are confident enough to perform those tasks without assistance. For more information about Transitions and how its programs help young adults with autism and learning disabilities learn to live fully independent lives, contact us at (518) 775-5384.
About the Author:
Gina Warsaw teaches Career Success courses at Transitions, which cover professional presentation, preparing resumes and cover letters, job searching, basic job skills, interacting professionally in the workplace and more. She has almost 30 years of experience supporting people with disabilities to reach their life goals, including more than 10 years focused on helping people transition into integrated community employment opportunities. Gina is currently the Director of Day Supports at The Arc Lexington.