In preparing autistic youth through school transition, they need practice, exposure, and experiences. Many need guidance to:
a) discover how their personal interests may match certain jobs or career,
b) practice independent living skills at home and in the community,
c) numerous ways to recognize their strengths and how their strengths match jobs or careers and,
d) have exposure to work settings that match their strengths and interests. While each one of these are important, together they make up the necessary parts of career readiness curriculum. Unfortunately, schools rarely include these as part of student career readiness.
What are we dealing with today? Harsh realities stare at us revealing many are left unprepared for post high school transition or a job and are left sitting at home. Only 19.3 percent of people with disabilities participate in the labor force.
Yet in a survey people with disabilities said they want to work.
When these young adults are left without work opportunities they they experience a low quality of life. When these young adults have a low quality of daily life they experience a low sense of well-being. This can be devastating because when the individual internalizes these low emotions, low self worth deepens. I call this “focused imperfection overload.” These are unnecessary outcomes and reflective of a collective failed system. Post high school transition can be chaotic with abrupt changes that are difficult for a student to manage.
Yet there is ray of light. I discovered from the data that emerged from my own research along with a life time journey with my autistic son there are seven aspects that can open up possibilities and lead to opportunities for the young adult. With exposure to strengths and interests it is a must to include: self-awareness, self-expression, collaboration, self-advocacy, self-empowerment, adaptation, and self-satisfaction. These aspects are often missing from student school transition planning and services. But when these aspects become part of a focused curriculum in career readiness, the preparation can transfer the student into increased ease and adaptation to employment or higher daily living. The 7 aspects explained:
1. Self-awareness – When students feel safe and have access to support tools their predictability is enhanced. Thus, they are more likely to learn how to tune into their physical needs and emotions. Feeling safe with predictability can have significant impact on their continued interest and willingness to learn and participate on tasks and interests.
2. Self-expression – The student can be guided to understand true-self feelings, thoughts or ideas. With encouragement to communicate, students exhibit their own style verbally, writing, art, music, or dance.
3. Collaboration – Students benefit in working with others in shared interests or a goal.
4. Self-advocacy – When students are guided in developing self awareness and speaking up for themselves, they are participating on their own well-being.
5. Self-empowerment – Students can be guided to understand their strengths and challenges. It is about finding their own voice to set goals and to make choices.
6. Adaptation – When students are supported to make choices and take action to handle change, growth is more likely to occur.
7. Self-satisfaction – This one is given very little attention. Students are supported and guided to experience contentment, taking pleasure in learning participating in work tasks, or creating art. The purpose here is to find experiences rewarding.
In conclusion, students are more prepared for the workplace when these seven aspects are supported early during school transition employment development or college services. These aspects matter as much as having specific interest or skills for employment. Most importantly, autistic people have incredible talents, strengths, and abilities. “Strengths are anchors to career success and one’s contributions to the world. Strengths are opened windows to creating life satisfaction.” Power Practices
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