Tag Archives: employment
Marty Nemko’s Article for People With Asperger’s Syndrome Written with Prejudice
I have recently read an appaling article entitled ‘Helping People with Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Find Work’ in Psychology Today written by Marty Nemko (click HERE to read the full article). Nemko holds a PhD in Educational Psychology and apparently is named the ‘Best Life Coach’ in San Francisco Bay Area. One may expect that a person with his credentials will be aware of the literature around a topic that he would wish to write about- he holds a doctorate, for crying out loud! In addition, one may also expect that writing about a sensitive issue requires awareness of people’s sensitivity and emotional responses about the topic.
But Marty has proven me wrong. His article was badly written and his insights and ideas were not based on research. For instance, why would he insist that most people with Asperger’s Syndrome prefer to be called ‘Aspies’? Where did he get that from? Even though a lot of people with AS prefer to be called Aspies, I still would not make the claim that Marty has made. He recently wrote an ‘update’ on his original article and claimed that he spoke to many experts, read articles on autism speaks.org and wikipedia. As an academic myself, I cannot help but scratch my head, laugh sarcastically and let out a loud sigh. Most people know about the unreliability nature of Wikipedia, right? It is also worth noting that although Autism Speaks is a big organisation with intentions of helping people in the Autism community, it has also been in the middle of controversies over the past few years.
Marty Nemko’s article has been written in an attempt to give advice to people with Autism and AS who are looking for work. However, his attempts failed miserably. All he did in his article was to highlight their inefficiencies and inadequecies:
“…some lack the wherewithal to get a bus pass, let alone adequately read social cues or the judgment to make timely decisions”
“…often off-putting, for example, long, fast-spoken, disjointed monologues without eye contact and unable to take the perspective of others other than their own, thus may too often offend them. Many are clumsy, with poor eye-hand coordination.They may have such mannerisms as odd posture, arm flapping, and body twisting. They can be socially naïve and unable to recognize humor. Some have unusual habits, for example, even scavenging through garbage cans to bring home used food scraps”
“Perhaps even more discouraging, it appears that even when employers are told that most of an Aspie’s salary would be paid by the taxpayer, many would rather pay full-freight for someone who doesn’t have Asperger’s.”
Instead of focusing on what people with Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism cannot do, he should have focused on what they could do. Articles such as Marty’s should never be written as it paints an extremely negative picture and hence could increase the stigma that surrounds Autsim. I urge everyone who are thinking of writing about any topic at all to be extra cautious. Research the topic and be sensitive.
I work very closely with people who are on the spectrum- in classrooms and in other settings. I have seen the range of abilities, interests and expertise that they have. Based on my experience, it is impossible to put them in one single category and hence offer a generic advice on how to help them. Just like people who are not on the spectrum, they need individualised support. Advice should be tailor-made to each individual’s situation. Oh, and one more thing: If nobody is asking for your advice, don’t give it especially if you’re going to put them down!
Autism Hangout: Employment and Autism
On the ninth episode of the Autism Hangout, we discussed Autism and Employment. SOME people with special educational needs and/ or disablities often struggle with finding and maintaining work, particularly those with Autism. Due to their rigidity of thoughts, preferences for routines and familiar places and the different ways in which they communicate and socialize may not be understood by employers. This could then lead to a conflict between the employers and employees.
There are however, several steps that could be taken in order to avoid such conflicts from arising. Here are some of them:
- Train and educate employers and recruiters about Autism and its effects on individuals. Negativity towards people with Autism usually comes from people’s ignorance of Autism. Stereotypes are not always true- particulary the negative ones. By training employers and recruiters about Autism, understanding and acceptance could be increased.
- Train and educate people with Autism about job application process, particularly interviews both at home and in schools. Filling out application forms and writing CVs are hard enough even for people without any learning difficulties. Be even more patient and teach those with Autism and other learning difficulties. Provide mock interviews way before young adults leave school to allow them to practise body language, appropriate responses and dress codes.
- Companies should allow candidates to visit the job sites prior to applying for any post. In this way, any prospective applicant could observe and experience the work environment, talk to current employees, have a real sense of the job’s requirements (physical, mental and emotional). Also, carers and/ or family members should be allowed to accompany those who require assistance.
- Prospective job applicants should be aware of the Equality Act 2010 which should be adhered to by all companies.
Companies should also take the following advice into consideration:
- When placing an advertisement for any jobs, companies should explicitly emphasise specific needs for social and communication skills. This will help individuals with Autism tease-out the jobs that they could do. In addition, it avoids an unwelcomed surprise on an individual’s first day.
- When it comes to the interview stage, interviewers should be made aware of individuals’ diagnoses and the interviewer should also be someone who has experience with communicating with people with Autism.
- Interviewers should ask ‘closed’ questions (those that can be answered with a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’), and should avoid asking hypothetical questions as this may be difficult for people with Autism (particularly who are on the severe end of the spectrum) to answer. It should be noted that one of the characteristics of people with Autism is their limited (or atypical) imagination. Some find it difficult to imagine a hypothetical situation, and prefer only to think of concrete examples that have actually happened to them.
- Interviewers should also be aware that some people wth Autism may exhibit body language that may seem unusual. Interviewers are encouraged to look past these body language and focus on what the individual’s skills as a potential employee.
- It is also important to give the potential employee a lot of support before and during their employment. Give them time to think about your question (during an interview), give them specific and clear instructions, avoid metaphors, give them direct but sensitive feedback and give them a timetable.
- Most importantly, give them a chance to prove that they can actually do the job in question. Look past the Autism and I promise you, you will be amazed!
For more information and support regarding Autism and employment, visit the National Autistic Society’s website: www.autism.org.uk