Congratulations! Your autistic child just secured their first job. You’re probably feeling a lot of emotions right now. Trust me when I tell you that your child is too. You both may be excited, proud, overwhelmed, and more. Work will bring some familiar and certainly a few new challenges. Here are some tips for supporting your autistic child in their first job:
- Be their biggest cheerleader. Congratulate them on securing employment. Some of you may have thought this day would never come. Celebrate! Then when the celebration is over, continue to offer encouragement, love, and support over the course of your child’s employment.
This is a big transition. Your child may be afraid or stressed, which could show up as irritability. Don’t let that discourage you from offering support.
- Be understanding. As previously mentioned, this is a huge transition. Your child may be coming out of an educational environment that supported and nurtured them. Bosses and peers in a working environment may not provide the same level of support and nurturing. If your child finds themselves in a less supportive environment, you can offer the consistent, loving support that makes the transition successful. If your child encounters situations that, as a parent, you feel strongly about, let them come to their own conclusion before discussing your perspective.
- Expect bumps. Do not be surprised if the job itself turns out to be more stressful than the process of trying to get the job. I do not say this to scare you or your child. I only want to provide a clear picture of what will lie ahead. Questions and situations will come steadily: Should your child disclose? Does your child need accommodations? Is the employer willing to provide the accommodations or will you have to brush up on your ADA knowledge? Not to mention the everyday social situations that your child will encounter.
- Respect their autonomy. Your child is the best expert on themselves. Let your child practice advocating for themselves. If you have an idea or suggestion, it is a good idea to offer it while also being willing to let your child try it their own way. They may need to prove to themselves that they can do it.
- Trust your/their training. You’ve prepared for this, and so has your child. This is the culmination of years’ worth of work. Now is the time for that work to pay off. Let your child fall back on the training they have had — all those therapies and IEP meetings got you and your child here. Respect all the hard work and preparation that you and your child have put into this and rely on that preparation to get through some of the new situations.
Getting my first job was one of my proudest moments. I also remember how proud my parents were. Now, I know I am capable of not only getting a job, but also maintaining employment for an extended period. It takes a lot of support from a lot of people to make employment work for me, but it is so worth it. Employment provides meaning, structure, and joy to my days. I would encourage all autistic young adults to try to get a fulfilling job, which will provide them the same.
Erin McKinney is an autistic individual who uses her own experiences to educate others about autism and the challenges that come with it, especially once autistics reach adulthood. She currently works for the Memphis Grizzlies of the National Basketball Association. Some of her interests include basketball, LEGO, puzzles, and board games.