[This excerpt is from a publication titled “Employment for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Parent Guide” commissioned by the Sinneave Family Foundation for distribution within the Calgary Board of Education.]
Setting Goals and Finding Resources
This section illuminates the role of personal goals in developing work-related skills, and the different support networks that may be available as you consider creating a personal employment plan with your child. Government resources, school services, and community programs can each offer employment guidance and advocacy that suit your family’s needs. No matter what supports you and your family use, they can each aid goals and build on successes.
Work-related skills always start in non-work settings. Practicing behaviours that will lead to greater social aptitude and autonomy is a good place to start, since many first jobs involve some measure of each. At home this might look like following a schedule, showing work ethic by completing chores, and safely exercising independence in the community. You can create goals for home together based on what skills the individual with autism wants to practice, and which skills will fit their ideal employment pathway.
Deciding when to seek external resources is a choice only you and your family can make, but the road to employment is an excellent moment to explore your options. Specifically, programs designed to help your child meet their goals and facilitate the next steps in finding a good employment fit down the road are readily accessible for youth with ASD in Alberta. The following list is a selection of organizations that provide information, social programming, and institutional aid for adolescents with ASD considering their first work opportunity.
Worktopia’s EmploymentWorks Canada “offers employment preparedness training for individuals ages 15-29 with [ASD], who are no longer attending school and are seeking opportunities to practice and develop the essential skills necessary to obtain sustainable employment.” EWC seeks to support individual goals by using practical activities, teamwork, and peer mentoring. It is funded by the Government of Canada, The Sinneave Family Foundation, and Autism Speaks Canada, and is free of charge for participants.
The Centre for Autism Services Alberta runs the related CommunityWorks Canada program for young people with ASD who are in school. This 12-14 week after-school program builds important social and vocational skills by offering participants the opportunity to work with community partners, and encourages the extension of goals beyond the home.
The Alberta Government’s Family Support for Children with Disabilities (FSCD) has a range of programs aimed at promoting participation in home and community-based activities for youth. Families are assessed on an individual basis, then presented with the appropriate supports. While not designed specifically for ASD diagnoses, FSCD can facilitate a variety of school, home, and employment services. The provincial government also has the Employment Learning Series webinar portal, with tools for both families and employers to explore.
While there is no one-size-fits-all recipe for employment, regular goal setting in different areas of life is one way to make the employment planning process more manageable for families. Youth can work with their parents to set their own pace and seek support in workplace skills development through partnership with available community resources.