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Career pathways for young people on the autism spectrum

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It seems that for success in science or art, a dash of autism is required

– Hans Asperger

Hans Asperger was the first researcher to recognise autism as a spectrum condition, highlighting the tremendous diversity of individuals with autism.

We see an array of talents in all young people, and those on the autism spectrum are no different. Unfortunately, many young people struggle to realise the unique benefits of their autism spectrum condition and how this translates to a place in the world of work. Considering the increasing prevalence of autism in recent years, as well as the soaring unemployment rate amongst young school leavers on the autism spectrum (ie. over 50%), this is a massive problem that cannot be ignored.

Neurodiversity can make a young person even better at certain jobs, so taking the time to discover and hone in on those talents with a career coach can be a real game changer in terms of their employment prospects for the future.

Thankfully, Insight is now helping young people on the autism spectrum to recognise their strengths and celebrate their differences. Insight is a comprehensive career development program designed specifically for young people on the autism spectrum. This is an individualised, one-on-one approach to career development that is mindful of the needs of young people on the autism spectrum and addresses major barriers to workforce entry through a thorough analysis of various areas including skills, interests, learning style, sensory sensitivities, personality factors, and training/employment capability.

Our focus on neurodiversity does not ignore the various challenges or limitations young people with autism may face. Rather, we help them to identify their relative strengths and weaknesses as well as tailored strategies to manage and minimise the hurdles they may face as they transition to the workforce.

Early intervention and a preventative approach are considered keys to success for all our students. In fact, we strongly recommend that career discussions begin around age 14 or 15 to create the foundation for a clear pathway and more seamless transitions from education and training to employment.

Our ultimate aim is to help young people on the autism spectrum to find their place in the world of work, a place that celebrates their differences and unique way of seeing the world.

THE INSIGHT PROGRAM

We want each participant who embarks on the Insight program to get the very most out of it.

In order to do this, each young person will meet for an initial discussion so that we may understand their unique needs and how the program can be best delivered to them.

Following this initial meeting, the young person will work with a career coach one-on-one to complete tailored career development modules and career coaching sessions. The career coach will consider the specific needs of the young person, as identified during their initial meeting, and deliver the program according to their specific learning needs.

The young person will receive a personalised career report outlining their key skills, work place and environmental preferences, and information about their learning style and capabilities. This report also includes some potentially suitable career pathways based on the findings of the career report.

An Action Plan is also provided at the completion of the Insight program to assist the young person in taking the steps required to achieve their goals as identified during the coaching phase of the program.

PROGRAM OUTLINE
INITIAL INTERVIEW to identify the young person’s unique needs
MODULE 1 LEARNING PREFERENCES and MOTIVATORS: Identifies key learning & delivery approaches & explores the young person’s main drivers in relation to their career.
MODULE 2 WHO YOU ARE: Identifies key aptitudes, abilities and personality traits. The young person reflects on past tasks or activities to help identify key skill areas.
MODULE 3 SKILLS and WORK TYPES: Looks at which skills the young person enjoys and are good at using and which they wish to avoid. Identifies the young persons work type.
MODULE 4 WORK PREFERENCES and VALUES: Determines the young persons preferred work settings to identify ideal work environments within the context of sensory issues.
MY POTENTIA A language free, culture fair assessment that addresses various barriers including learning difficulties.
CAREER REPORT delivered to young person and their family
CAREER COACHING Four one-on-one sessions with your career coach to undergo guided occupational research to build a career pathway or employability training. Sessions are tailored to each students’ career report.
ACTION PLAN provided outlining the next steps of the young person’s journey

WHO WILL BENEFIT FROM THE INSIGHT PROGRAM? 

The Insight program is designed for 15-30 year old individuals who are on the autism spectrum. This age range reflects the life stage when major transitions occur for a young person in relation to their education and career.  It is a time when many decisions need to be made about a person’s future, but for many people it can be extremely difficult to make these decisions if they’re not sure where to start and have limited information to assist them in the decision making process.

The Insight program provides the young person with a better understanding of their skills, strengths, abilities and their work and learning preferences, which may then be used to:

  • Identify the most appropriate educational options ‘best fit’ for the final years of schooling
  • Assist in the identification of suitable subject choices in secondary school
  • Recognise work experience activities or part-time work opportunities that are a good match for the young person
  • Determine potential career options the young person can further investigate
  • Understand the most appropriate further education pathways for the young person
  • Assist the young person to prepare for employment

At the completion of the program, the young person will have a greater understanding of themselves and their capabilities, and will be armed with information that can aid their career decision making and enable them to transition confidently between education and employment.

INSIGHT & CAREER DECISIONS

Everyone should have the opportunity to do a job they love, are good at, and which allows them to do the things they enjoy each day. But how can a person know what this job is when they’re young, unsure about their strengths, probably have a limited understanding of available jobs and what doing these jobs really means day-to-day? Because of this lack of awareness, young people can struggle to identify jobs with a best ‘fit’ for them or may have an unrealistic understanding of an occupation that in fact would be poorly suited to them or offers little in the way of employment opportunities and job security. The risk is that the young person will engage in employment or study that is a poor fit for them as an individual.

For all young people it is imperative to avoid choosing a job or career that is a poor fit, however for a young person on the autism spectrum this becomes even more important given the noted high levels of unemployment they already face. A poor occupational fit can result in sensitivities to sensory stimulus, disengagement from work or study, anxiety and mental health difficulties, lack of confidence, and ultimately may lead to long-term unemployment or underemployment.

The Insight program helps young people on the autism spectrum to understand themselves and to identify the things they would value in their work and the things they would rather avoid. The career report provides comprehensive information about the findings from the Insight modules and includes recommendations for occupations that may be suitable, along with providing strategies for overcoming individual barriers to employment. One-on-one coaching sessions which are tailored to the capabilities of the young person, allow them to explore different occupations ensuring they understand what the job would require day-to-day, the necessary qualifications, employment prospects, potential earnings, and most importantly if the job is a good fit for them.

Knowing what they are suited to, and having an opportunity to assess the different occupations that are available, means the young person can focus their energy in the right area when looking for work and commencing further study. Gaining employment in a job that is a good match for them and provides ample employment opportunities will mean the young person will be more likely to secure and sustain ongoing employment, therefore avoiding joblessness and the stresses of traditional job search and interview processes. In addition to maintaining employment, the young person will be more satisfied and successful in what they do.

EMPLOYABILITY COACHING

The Insight team can also assist young people to develop the skills they need to get and keep a job. We can provide individualised, one-on-one coaching in the areas of:

  • Effective job search
  • Cover letter & resume writing
  • Interview preparation
  • Employer expectations, suitable workplace behaviours and what to expect on the first day

This coaching can be provided as the next step following the completion of the Insight program, or can be undertaken as a separate service for those who already know what they would like to do, but need to develop the employability skills required to get a job. For those young people still at secondary school or in further education, this coaching can be helpful when seeking a casual job outside of school hours.

Here at Insight, we are always looking to develop relationships with other organisations that can offer support and assistance to the young people we work with who are on the autism spectrum. At the completion of the Insight program or employability coaching, wherever possible we will make recommendations for other services that will help the young person to reach the employment and study goals they have set out to achieve.

MEET THE INSIGHT TEAM

LEE SUNLAY

Career Practitioner

Lee is a qualified Career Practitioner and a member of the Career Development Association of Australia (CDAA). She has over 13 years’ experience in working with clients to achieve their career goals and overcome hurdles to obtaining employment. Lee specialises in assisting young people to gain an understanding of themselves and their strengths, so they can identify the career pathways they are best suited to. She also enjoys coaching in the areas of resume writing, interview skills and job search.

In 2015, Lee assisted Dr. Christine Kotsios, a psychiatrist with an interest in autism, in the development of the Insight Program, and is keen to help young people with autism to understand their strengths and abilities in order to find meaningful study and work opportunities.

FIND OUT MORE

To find out more about the Insight program or to discuss how we can help, please contact:

Lee Sunlay – Career Practitioner

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