Many folks with an Autism Spectrum Disorder aren’t always motivated by the idea of making money or sometimes the concept that they have responsibilities of living; rent, electricity, water, telephone, cable, etc. Sure we can teach the theory of making money to enable the person’s ability to purchase products, go to movies, etc., but that may still not be motivating enough or have a quick enough response (cause and effect result) for the worker with autism to imagine.
Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with a job developer about a young man with Autism who drives, has his own car, converses very well on the topic of video games, has many employable skills and also experiences significant social anxiety. His dream job has been to work at a Video Game store. While talking with the job developer she expressed to me that she was starting to get a bit frustrated with the young man because has turned down two Video Store assessments. The young man had commented that it was too far away from his home. She had come to the conclusion that he is not a “motivated” worker and that he really didn’t want to work.
I decided to explore the situation a little closer. On further discussion, I learned that the young man was volunteering at a community church that was close to his home. His job consisted of tasks congruent with an office assistant; answering phones, creating parishioner offering statements, designing bulletins and newsletters, compiling weekly bulletins and resources, and other tasks in a small, two person office. He had been successful at this job for 4 months.
After learning about the young man, I asked the job developer, “What does he want to do at the Video Store?” She looked a little perplexed and say, “Sell video games!” With that I said, “Are you sure that is what he wants to do considering he has social anxiety?” She answered, “What else would he do there?” My answer was, “match his likes and interests to his strengths and skills.”
Being a strong proponent of Person Centered Plans (PCP), I suggested having his team come to together to talk about his strengths, talent, skills, likes, interests and barriers to employment. If the PCP had been facilitated prior to job development, the job developer would have discovered long ago that this young man would be most successful in a small, quiet work environment, with a designated workspace and predictable work tasks. Obviously this did not match the workers “dream job” concept.
This led us back to the “motivation” issue, what made this young man’s “dream job” his dream job? His response was that he liked to play video games and talk to his friends about specific games. When he was asked point blank about the tasks involved with working at a Video Game store for instance, greeting customers, answering question about all kind of games, running the cash register, etc., he said that he would not like that job.
The “place” did not match the characteristics needed for the worker’s ideal job. Just because the worker said his ideal job would be at a “Video Game Store” that doesn’t mean he knows what is expected of him. His thought was that he would talk to people who wanted to talk about the games he was interested in, not answer their questions about random games.
Often times professionals assume the worker with autism who can drive, communicates his wants and needs and is well versed in the attributes of a certain video game, must have the ability to discern the nuances and intricacies of their “dream job.” The job developer and/or job coach are often fooled by what I call, “deceptively verbal”. The job developer needs to know how the person they are working with experiences their autism, the characteristics related to this disability and ASD best practice strategies to support them.
So the challenge was to get the job developer to think a different way. I asked rather than label the worker with autism as unmotivated and not wanting to work, let’s work on the “What?” questions.
1. What is it about this job that interests you?
2. What type of tasks do you want to do at this job?
This got the job developer thinking in a whole new direction; what kinds of office assistant jobs are there related to video games? Those jobs could include:
1. Video Game Helpline Support
2. Local video game stores that buys, sells and trades that may need merchandise tested, inventoried, etc.
The issue wasn’t that the worker wasn’t motivated; the issue was the “What” question the job developer needed to ask. A Person Centered Plan could have helped identify the environment needed for the ideal work condition, identify the skill and talent preferences that would ultimately secure a job for the worker to enjoy for a long time.
Bottom line, money isn’t always the motivation factor for folks with autism. Most often and importantly, the job itself needs to be intrinsically motivating for the worker. If you the job developer or job coach comes to a decision that the worker with autism is unmotivated to work, you’ve got the wrong job! Keep the detective work going and discover the true passion of the worker and tap into their interests, skills and talents.
Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. Confucius