Asperger Syndrome (AS) is such a recent diagnostic category in the U.S. that most of the individuals who carry it are children or adolescents. We are only now developing a fund of experience that can anticipate and meet schoolchildren’s needs; we know even less about the typical vocational functioning and other needs of adults with AS.
Since most children with AS appear to require some interventions, supports, or modifications to enable them to succeed in school, it seems reasonable to assume that many adults with AS will require at least some supports or special conditions in the workplace.
One of the most common concerns adults report to AANE is work failure.
Although many men and women with AS are succeeding in the workplace, many others have a history of being unable to get and hold on to jobs.
This article is intended to help adults with AS (and the parents, spouses, and mental health professionals who support them) to analyze employability, plan for any reasonable remediation of weaknesses, and identify the characteristics of jobs where adults with AS are most likely to feel comfortable and succeed.
For those adults for whom competitive employment is not an option, we will outline how to seek disability benefits.
In part, we will use what we have learned about how to help children with AS succeed in school, and adapt those insights and techniques to meet the needs of adults in the workplace.
AS is characterized by three clusters of symptoms or general kinds of difficulties that can directly impact employment:
- Difficulty processing sensory input (sensory integration).
- Difficulties understanding social intercourse (theory of mind).
- Differences in “executive function” (organizational skills) and cognition/information-processing skills, such as difficulty appreciating the “big picture” (“central coherence”).
Just as each cluster of symptoms often necessitates accommodations for a student with AS in school, similar accommodations may determine the difference between comfort and catastrophe on the job for an adult employee with AS. Let’s look at these three areas individually.
In the classroom, many children with AS become over-aroused when their senses are flooded by noise, flickering lights, or other triggers. They may feel anxiety or even panic, and react with tantrums. Often they require some accommodations to reduce sensory stimulation, such as sitting at a desk placed against a wall or at some distance from other students. They may wear headphones, or have special permission to leave the classroom to compose themselves in a “safe place,” such as a resource room or the school library.
Workplaces differ greatly in their general sensory load and in their flexibility about worker movement. Obviously, success for AS individuals is more likely in workplaces that are quiet, predictable, and allow frequent brief retreats from social demands, noise, etc.
After an extensive career broadcast marketing, Jennifer and her husband searched for answers when their oldest son hit the kinder years with great difficultly. After finally learning that their oldest son had Aspergers Syndrome, she left her career in television and became a full time mother to both of her sons. Jennifer elicited the participation of her sons and together they produced several independent programs including a children’s animated series titled Ameriquest Kids (now distributed by Landmark Media) as well as her documentary and book titled, Coping to Excelling: Solutions for school-age children diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism or Aspergers Syndrome.
The need for more information encouraged Jennifer to elicit a team of autism experts to provide weekly, original content to a website free to anyone seeking to live their best under the diagnosis of High-Functioning Autism/Aspergers Syndrome… appropriately titled: Aspergers101.com.