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INTRODUCTION TO ASPERGER'S SYNDROME AND EMPLOYMENT

There is an extremely high unemployment rate for people with Autism and Asperger's Syndrome in Britain at the moment. There fact that there is a severe recession is relevant. There was when the economy was doing well, and there is now the economy isn't doing as well. According to statistics released by the NAS, the employment rate for people with Asperger's Syndrome is 12%. For people with Autism it is 2%. It is very hard to see how those statistics can be reduced in any way, shape or form, unless radical changes occur in the way the Benefits system operates in Britain. There also will be people with these conditions who are undiagnosed so obviously it is difficult to gauge a totally accurate figure, but I would say that an unemployment rate of 88% is accurate for people with AS and 98% is fairly accurat for people with Autism.


The high unemployment rate isn't because people with AS/HFA are idle. No, this isn't a black or white issue. How can or how does someone with Asperger's Syndrome/ High-Functioning Autism manage to provide employment references if they have never worked or have had several jobs, which were only short term? Those with AS have social and interaction difficulties, so it will be hard for them to gain personal references, which don't always show or tell a full story, like a Curriculum Vitae or resume doesn't.

When job descriptions listing statements such as 'Must be a good team player'/'Must fit in well with all sorts of people'/'Must have good communications skills', many people with Asperger's Syndrome are placed at a distinct disadvantage. For example, someone with Asperger's Syndrome may be able to do the job they have applied for easily, but if they come across to employers or co-workers as 'weird', 'asocial', communicate in a very 'strange manner' or present a poor performance at job interviews, they will constantly remain unemployed, regardless of what abilities they could offer to the workplace.

This is often ignored in people with Asperger's Syndrome and even Autism, showing that style over content approach is important in the workplace of today. A person with AS may have been employed as perhaps no interview or references were needed but we are now in the era of body language, communication and job interviews.

If I could pick a time to be in employment with AS, the years between 1950 and 1970 would have been the best when there was full employment, stability in the employment world and jobs for life. It is just a pity that Asperger's Syndrome wasn't widely known about and catered for in those times. Back then, there wasn't as much interaction demanded in certain jobs as today and there is now more emphasis on team work which is difficult for many people with Asperger's Syndrome, due to overload factors and interaction problems. Between the years of 1950 and 1970, often jobs chased people back then and not the other way around in today's cut throat economy. If I had been born in with Asperger's Syndrome in August 1936, 40 years before I was, I could have got a job somewhere, stayed there for a long time, and not had to worry about losing it due to "Customer demand" or "Falling orders". I wouldn't have had to worry about "Fierce competition" or "Being flexible" or changing jobs and my surroundings numerous times. It is rare someone has a job for life nowadays. We live in a time when the safest jobs are midwives, as there are no shortage of people being born and undertakers, as there will be no shortage of people dying. The only problem with the latter is that it is a dead-end job! At the moment, with the recession, another safe job is being a debt collector.

However, you can come up with if only's and what if's forever and a day. You can't change history. The fact is, I wasn't born 40 years before I was. Asperger's Syndrome wasn't recognised in the 1950's and 1960's. You have to make the most of the time in which you live and it is up to society to keep increasing knowledge and awareness of Asperger's Syndrome, and that knowledge and awareness must, and it is vital that it does, spread to the workplace.


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