Hard Skills with Aspergers: Teachable Abilities and Skill Sets in the Workplace

I have often been asked: What is the hardest part of your job? The majority of the time the answer is discovering what skills my clients have to offer to an employer. As an employment specialist I recognize that prospective employers are talking about hard skills.

Employees with special skills wanted - job interview candidates

So, what are hard skills?

Hard skills are teachable abilities or skill sets that can be quantified.

For example: being able to type so many words per minutes, lifting a certain amount of weight, speaking more than one language, and being able to program computers. Hard skills work in conjunction with the soft skills we briefly addressed in previous posts, and will continue to address through this series.

Throughout my experience, something I have become aware of is: For individuals applying for jobs without a lot of past experience, these hard skills are learned through study, training and practice.

Hard skills can be taught and built upon.

So, where do you go when you have minimal experience, but want to work on your hard skills?

What to Know When Coworking With Someone With Autism

by: Dave Gentry

Never forget to pump a handshake three times- not one, and definitely not five.Seen from an autistic perspective, the social, shared, and flexible attributes of the modern shared office can be intimidating. As work and life spill into each other, they clash with coping mechanisms for autism spectrum disorder, in which high-level functioning depends on adherence to routine, scripts, and schedules. Despite this challenge, autistic professionals can have precious attributes, and demand better understanding of the relationship between the workplace and this complicated disorder.

“If you’ve met one person with Asperger’s syndrome, then you’ve met one person with Asperger’s syndrome.” In the same circles where this quote is famous, its author is a bit of a celebrity. Dr. Stephen Shore is a professor of Special Education at Adelphi University who has devoted his life to teaching and researching autism. He also has Asperger’s syndrome, a high-functioning subtype of autism spectrum disorder characterized by obsessive interest and poor social skills. “I wouldn’t use the phrase ‘Asperger’s sufferer,’ because some of us enjoy the way our mind works.”

Interview

The symptom affects how people behave, socialize, and communicate, and its acceptance in the workplace is “uneven.” Some employers avoid the issue, others embrace it, and others are seeking out people with ASD because some of their traits make good business sense. While genius is somewhat rare, a common affinity for routines can translate well to the work force. “They can be efficient, and have very low absentee rates.” TV and movies have introduced more savants whose quirky idiosyncrasies suggest autism, but Dr. Shore knows the reality is often different. “It’s all well and good that organizations are seeking IT people, but it’s a low percentage. We’re not all geeks with superpowers in IT.”

How Do People Diagnosed With Autism Get Hired?

What kind of agencies are out there to connect me, and my child’s skills, to a potential employer?

My name is Raeme Bosquez-Greer. I have been an Employment Specialist for the most challenging students for over 20 years. Challenging in my vocabulary means that they are harder to place in a competitive employment setting.

All states and cities have agencies similar to the Texas Workforce Commision, a department of rehabilitation and Alamo Area Council of Governments, which I’ll refer to as “The Agencies” for the remainder of this blog. These are the main agencies the parents of a 15+ year old student can go to for their first steps in seeking training, job developing and employment. This umbrella of agencies contracts third party providers to complete services.  These providers, like myself, specialize in a variety of disabilities including Autism and Neurodevelopmental challenges. We are paid commission for the services that we provide.

The Agencies mentioned above will educate you regarding all the services they offer either themselves or through the 3rd party providers. They will give you a list of providers to select from. You call the providers on the list and interview them with questions specific to your son or daughters needs and you select the provider that you want to work with.

The agency will give you example questions but you can also ask your own based on what best fits your child.

Example questions you might want to focus on are:

  1. How long have you worked in the field of vocational rehabilitation?
  2. What is your success rate with students with Autism or related challenges?
  3. What are your credentials?
  4. Describe your most challenging case and did you have a positive outcome?
  5. What are the most common barriers to overcome for my son or daughter to become successfully employed?

For the state agencies, a student can begin the paperwork process as early as 15 years old. A vocational representative is required to be at the high school a minimum of once a week.  I recommend you contact your child’s case manager frequently and ask to make an appointment with their appointed vocational representative.  Start services early so that your child has time to learn the skills that they need and overcome any barriers by the time they graduate.

An example of my own daughter receiving services:

Choosing Not to Disclose Your Disability in the Workplace

In previous blogs we have discussed full disclosure of your disability, partial disclosure of your disability and different ways to go about deciding whether or not you should disclose. In the last blog we talked about the SODAS method for disclosing. One of the options was to not disclose it all.

disclose in the workplace

Some individuals that I work with feel like like this is the best route to go when they start a new job. If you choose not to disclose, as I have said before, it is a personal decision and should be carefully considered . . .

If you choose not to disclose, ensure that you have a strong support system that is made up of family, friends or other individuals that can help you if you start struggling. This way you will have an outlet to work through your struggles.

Some choose not to disclose immediately, but realize within the first few weeks that they have some concerns, and choose to disclose their disability before it becomes a problem.

Sometimes we have disabilities that don’t affect us at the workplace. This can be a good reason we choose not to disclose.

Just remember no matter when you choose to disclose make sure that you are telling the appropriate people. An example of an appropriate person to tell would be human resources. If there were no human resources at your company, which is common in small companies, you would tell the manager or person that is in charge. This should be kept confidential on their part and you should feel comfortable getting the support that you will need. Sometimes you may need to have documentation of your disability and what accommodations you might need so that they can help you.

by Maggie Cromeens

The Three Different Learning Types: How Your Learning Type can Affect Employment

During inventory and work assessments, one thing that we as employment specialists learn, and sometimes the individual with Asperger’s/HFA learns as well, is what learning type they are. During the initial stages of assessing our individuals’ best possible work environment, we also discover their learning types: visual, auditory, or kinesthetic. I will now break down these types of learners and how they can affect employment.

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Visual learners

Visual learners prefer using images, pictures, colors, and maps to organize information and communicate with others. They can easily visualize objects, plans and outcomes in their mind’s eye.

Auditory Learners

Auditory Learners learn through listening. An auditory learner depends on hearing and speaking as a main way of learning.  Auditory learners must be able to hear what is being said in order to understand, and may have difficulty with instructions that are drawn. However, if the writing is in a logical order it can be easier to understand. They also use their listening and repeating skills to sort through the information that is sent to them

Kinesthetic/Tactile Learners

Kinesthetic/Tactile Learners are more likely to use their body and sense of touch to learn about the world around them. It’s more likely they like sports, exercise and other physical activities such as gardening, or woodworking. They also like to think out issues, ideas and problems while they exercise. They would rather go for a run or walk if something is bothering them, than sit at home.

A lot of the young adults I work with are visual learners. When I talk to an employer I can set up supports within management, and the coworkers that would enable the client to be trained using visual supports. If they were only receiving auditory or kinesthetic supports, they would struggle and could ultimately not be successful.

However, this can be avoided by knowing your learning type. The same goes for my auditory and kinesthetic learners: if they are only receiving visual supports and not what they need, they could also be at risk of being unsuccessful. Learning types are important to know.

by Maggie Cromeens

Practice Advertising Yourself for a Job Interview with ASD: The Commercial

A one-minute commercial can set the tone for any networking opportunity, cold calling, or interview. It is important to have something that sets you apart because, as I discussed in a previous blog, a majority of the job market is hidden. Although it can be daunting to develop a commercial, a polished one-minute speech can give you the opportunity to tell someone about your skills, and what type of opportunity you are looking for. This is an important step to take before beginning cold calling, sending out resumes, and interviewing, because it allows the individual time to assess their skills and pick out what is important to highlight. So how do you go about completing an elevator speech? I will outline a few simple steps that we have found effective that will help you work on yours.

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(Information from: Purchase College Career Development Center)

STEP 1:

  1. Think about at least 2-3 things you have accomplished
  2. Select two of your skills that relate to your career goal
  3. List 3 personal qualities you possess

STEP 2:

  1. Write down some details about your accomplishments, skills, and personal qualities
  2. Write out a story/script that wraps up STEP 1 and first part of STEP 2

STEP 3:

  1. Practice reading the script
  2. Get it down to 60 seconds or less
  3. Try out your commercial on family and friends – Ask for suggestions
  4. The more you practice the more confidant you will feel!

The one-minute commercial will shift over time as you gain more experience and change jobs. You may have more than one commercial or speech as your job hunt continues. This is a powerful tool that individuals with Asperger’s/HFA can use to set the tone for their interview, and present the reasons they should be hired!

by Maggie Cromeens

Peter Thiel: Asperger’s can be a big advantage in Silicon Valley

Peter Thiel — the PayPal founder, Facebook investor, and bestselling author — hates groupthink.

He avoids hiring MBAs, since he says they tend to be “high extrovert/low conviction people,” a combination of traits that “leads towards extremely herd-like thinking and behavior.”  Similarly, he says that “people end up behaving more lemming-like” in places like San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood, where tons of tech companies are crammed into a .635 square mile area. All that socialization leads to conformity, he argues, preventing people from coming up with original, innovative ideas.

To Thiel, originality is the name of the entrepreneurial game, since it’s the quickest route to gaining a monopoly, as he says Google did with search. From that logic, he argues that a psychological condition usually thought of as a disorder — Asperger’s syndrome — provides a startup advantage.

The Hidden Job Market

Aspergers Employment

Do you know the difference between the hidden job market versus the advertised job market?

People at Work

The majority of individuals are unaware that a hidden job market exists. The hidden job market includes jobs that are not formally announced on the Internet, the companies website or even by a “now hiring” sign. The hidden job market is often used by the employer to hire someone within their network or their associate’s networks. According to statistics, 80 percent of all jobs are never advertised(Uncovering the hidden job market by Martin Lieberman)

So how does this affect individuals with Asperger’s/HFA?

Should You Disclose Your Diagnosis?

One of the most common concerns when working towards employment, interviewing and accepting an offer is the decision to disclose your disability or not. This a very personal decision, and one that you should feel comfortable with.

Many concerns the employment seeker has can include:

Will it affect how I am perceived at work?

Will others judge me?

Who do I disclose too?

When do I disclose?

In the next few entries I will discuss answers to the aforementioned questions. I will address the different types of disclosures – such as full disclosure, partial disclosure and not disclosing – as well as what to do after you answer yes to the question: “Can you do this job with or without a reasonable accommodation?”

By: Maggie Cromeens