Introducing the World of Work to People with ASD
What should be considered when looking for volunteer work? Take into account the person’s interests, skill level, what areas of growth need to be addressed, and likes and dislikes. For example, if the person is afraid of animals then volunteering at the animal shelter may not be a good fit. If they enjoy repetitive tasks, maybe organizing the bottles at a bottle drive may be a good job.
When my children were 13 and 11, they started volunteering at a local farmer’s market and did so for 9 years. The shift was 3 hours, one day a week. We created a work chart for the shifts so each time they worked a shift, they got a check mark. At the end of the month, they had 4 check marks, enough to choose a toy or DVD. Both children knew what they are working towards which made them motivated. They didn’t understand the concept of money, but did understand the concept of spending time at a job to earn something they really want. Money is not necessarily a motivator for autistic people so think about creating other ways to inspire them.
My hope was that this summer experience would help with their conversation skills and introduce them to people who have small businesses such as farms. Julia was involved in a community garden at school and really liked it. She increased her conversation skills by selling beverages to vendors and manning the information booth at the market. Marc increased the range of foods in his diet after being exposed to different fruits and vegetables.
An adult friend of mine with Asperger Syndrome, John, is not motivated by money to work; however, he does want to have satellite TV to watch football and be able to attend some of the games. His parents make him pay for these things so work is motivating for him to pursue his special interests. John also enjoys giving talks about autism because he uses public transportation to get to his talks, another special interest. To gain experience, John started out not getting paid for talks and speaking locally until he felt confident.
Not sure where to get started with volunteering? Have a look at the website Volunteer Canada. There is a tab on the website that says Find A Volunteer Centre which lists centres in every province in Canada. Look in your community newspaper, library bulletin board, or local newsletter to find out about upcoming events. If there is a concert coming and the person with ASD enjoys music, maybe they can pass out programs and also attend the concert for free. Be creative in your thinking!
Volunteering provides an important opportunity to prepare for the world of work. People with ASD need time and experience to build skills and feel comfortable out in the community. Volunteering within a special interest can help a person meet other like-minded people who share their passion for that activity. For me, the volunteer experience in the world of figure skating has been wonderful because I have met people who enjoy the sport as much as I do and my children are now well known in my skating circle. My experience has widened opportunities for my children. It is through skating that I found out about the farmer’s market.
Keeps your eyes open for community opportunities and be aware of how links are connected and activities intersect. It is through these connections that new experiences happen.
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