An interesting article on employment issues autistics face found in Slate. Here is the comment I left:
This article could be written about my sons. It is also important to note that without a job coach, or even a coach for college, they would not be able to attend, despite their high IQs. Most people cannot afford a job or college coach, and unless subsidized by tax breaks or government grants, which company is going to spend their resources on helping autistics when it would cost the companies nothing to hire differently disabled persons or non-disabled at all. By the way, colleges and universities also do not supplement with college coaches.There are no one-to-one programs unless you pay for the coach yourself. Whether we like it or not, companies are there to make money for their investors, share holders, and owners. While we would like the to help change social attitudes, there has to be a real life incentive for them to do so.
Moreover, understanding that not every autistic is geared towards computer science, which by the way is very interactive and group work oriented career not solitary as the apparently ignorant in society believe, and that autistics enjoy as many different types of work as any neurotypical is a good place to start. It is simply an outgrowth of identity politics, where society has to categorize everyone by some list of acceptable identifiers. It may make life easier for the average person to not have to think beyond themselves to try to figure out who the other person happens to be, but what pigeonholing does is to denigrate, isolate and marginalize those who don’t fit into the acceptable “model” like my sons.
I have always told therapists, educators and social workers, your job is to figure out what they want to accomplish and then find a way to help them accomplish that goal despite their disability, not deciding what that goal should be based upon their disability. Two different approaches, one respects the autistic individual’s humanity, the other decides that they are infantilized children unable to decide their own life goal. As an adult which way would you like the world to view you?
Additionally, there is another important point to make. No one knows that the applicants have autism from a resume. If they are not getting job interviews it has nothing to do with their autism and maybe everything to do with their chosen profession. One son with a masters in media consistently gets interviews, and his issues are the interview process. Meanwhile, the other son with a Masters in computer science, did not have an interview for one year after graduating. He tends to do well if prepped for an interview and social interactions.
There are many other factors that go into the employment process other than sending out resumes. While many of them may be associated with autism, many of them are extraneous to autism. A career advisor and coach should be aware of every angle and help them on every level and not simply blame a lack of success on one issue and one issue alone. It is, and will always be, a combination of issues for everyone in employment, including autistics.
The issue that became apparent during the comment discussion is that even when people think they are being supportive, as the article tried to be, in reality they are merely propagating another form of marginalization without even knowing it. So let’s talk about what is to marginalize someone:
Society likes to discuss how minorities and women are marginalized in this world. It is a fact, and something that needs to be addressed. But what we never talk about, or at least in my experience, is how society marginalizes those with disabilities. People give lipservice to the fact that we should do more for the disabled. They point to the Americans with Disability Act and the IDEA, that we as a society, are beyond the idea that disabled persons should live at the fringes of the world. Yet, that is merely a self- congratulatory bandaid.
Society says look at us, how wonderful we are towards the disabled. How inclusive we are. Society gives itself a participation trophy for saying sure the disabled should be allowed to live among us. But then, on closer examination this is the truth: It is still considered a societal good to abort an unborn child because they have a disability.
I have yet to hear of anyone in the west thinking it is ok to abort a child because of its color or its gender. Yes, gendercide is a reality in eastern nations, but it is illegal. That couples find a way around the law says more about the priorities of that culture, nothing good by the way, and the reality that not all cultures are equal. A society that still views one gender more important than another is unfit to join the civilized world no matter what agreements they signed through the UN. Moreover, gendercide is something with which the world now needs to come to terms. Men need wives, but because there are missing hundreds of millions of unborn females, these men in eastern nations will have no support system, no family, no children and no legacy. Since much of these societies are family oriented, and care, especially elder care, is family dependent, the reckoning will be over decades and generations.
Furthermore, while we in the west work towards ending the marginalization of women, we still think nothing more of treating the disabled as if they are recalcitrant children, unable to function and make life decisions. Society treats the disabled as if they have no right to make life choices, or have goals that differentiate from their respective paths, outlined by perhaps well-meaning but self-important elitist clique. These so-called experts decide what they should do, and how they should do it. They rarely if ever take a look at the disabled person as a person. They see the disability first and foremost and not the human being before them.
When we talk about marginalization, we need to talk about the reality that as long as society deems it worthier to abort a disabled child than to give birth to that little human being and raise them to live the best life they could, that as long as society decides that only certain jobs are appropriate for each disability, then disabled persons of any kind will continue to be left out of society as a whole. Marginalization doesn’t even begin to describe the dehumanizing effect this has on those with disabilities. Marginalization doesn’t even begin to describe the reality that the world still sees the disabled as untermenchen.