Last month we briefly addressed the imperative need to provide consistent and effective national job seeking support for people with autism. I use the terms consistent, effective and national purposely as I do believe there are some organisations providing great support for job seekers with autism.
However, to find effective support you need to be living in the right area, know about the support on offer and know that these services have the capacity to provide support and not just add you to an ever increasing waiting list. In some cases job seekers may be accessing advice from different providers and this can, at times, be completely inconsistent and ultimately act as another barrier to successfully finding employment.
To begin to rectify the above problems we wanted to understand, first hand, the problems job seekers with autism face when seeking support from employability professionals. To do this we organised an afternoon focus group which was enlightening and certainly gave us food for thought.
‘I think autism affects every step of the process. From how you assess your skills, to the environment you are able to work in. To what you make of advertisements. What you say about your disability. What you say in an interview. The whole process is different for a person with autism and the advisor needs to be there for them every step of the way.’ (job seeker with autism)
I feel this perspective of a job seeker from our focus group, gives a perfect overview of the specific job seeking difficulties people with autism face.
The opinions and experiences shared in the group were varied and, at times, greatly upsetting. But, the common theme that was present amongst all job seekers was the lack of access to services, inconsistent support and lack of understanding from employment advisors. This lack of understanding was not only lack of awareness of how autism can create specific difficulties when job seeking but also not appreciating how past difficulties may have shaped their outlook and confidence.
“When I went to the job centre and asked to be put on to a disability advisor. The person I spoke with was not helpful at all. She just looked at me with a shocked expression and said “You’ve got autism?!” in a loud and disbelieving voice.” (job seeker with autism)
“At school we’re misunderstood, bullied, not seen as having any potential. We come out of the system with really low self-esteem. We may or may not have qualifications. Our job advisors have to see beyond that, and through that, and then may have to start with building our self-esteem. Working out what we can do. Helping us to build our education and our skills.” (job seeker with autism)
We, as employment advisors, need to, above all else, empathise with our job seekers and not only provide support with the job finding process but also improve confidence, self-esteem and self-worth. Without these then surely nobody, irrespective of autism, would be able to succeed in finding meaningful and fulfilling employment.
Next month’s blog will be written by a job seeker outlining the specific areas of difficulty they have faced with job finding process.
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