It's a dilemma. A job during the teen years offers many benefits. It increases self-esteem, provides valuable experience for entering the job market later, gives an opportunity to practice real-life social situations and gives your teen someplace to go and somewhere to be instead of sitting at home playing video games. And obviously, it gives your teen money of his own to spend on his interests and helps teach the value of a dollar and budgeting skills.
But there are also potential problems. Right now the unemployment rate is up and employers are much more selective in their hiring. Teens are low on the list of potential employees and if your Aspie has a hard time making eye contact or "connecting" with the interviewee he may be passed over during the hiring process. When that happens, are you helping or hurting his self-esteem? Jobs that are available for teens, working at fast-food restaurants and ushers in movie theatres, frequently involve interacting with customers on a daily basis. Is this the type of job your Aspie will be comfortable doing? Or will he end up hating the job, dreading or even avoiding going to work?
Outside Job vs. Self-Employment
Some parents find self-employment is a better option for their Aspie. Starting a small home business gives you a chance to stay involved in the process, teaching skills such as scheduling and time management, marketing and sales, customer service and book keeping. In the early stages, you can accompany your teen on appointments and negotiate sales, allowing him to take over as you see his abilities grow. Some ideas for home businesses for teens include:
- Lawn care and yard work
- Odd jobs, for example cleaning out basements, attics or garages
- Pet sitting or dog walking
- Cleaning offices or shops
- Errand runner (if your teen drives)
Depending on your teen's interests and skills, there may be many more jobs you can add to this list. Finding the right fit is important; for example, your teen might be methodical and structured. Cleaning local offices, where there is a specific list of chores to do each week with little interaction with others might be a perfect fit.
Take some time to brainstorm ideas with your teen, remember, you don't need to limit him to only one type of job, as someone self-employed, he can offer a number of different services. Once you have listed what he can do, create a flyer or brochure and start by giving it to people you know: friends, co-workers, neighbors, local businesses you frequent.
As with a "regular" job, the main purpose of self-employment should be to teach your teen skills that he can use throughout his life.
Using Special Interests
When discussing possible jobs, think about your Aspie's special interests and passions. What would be a good fit? Your teen might have a interest in dogs; contact pet stores, veterinary offices, animal shelters, zoos, etc. and ask about employment opportunities. Your teen might have excellent computer skills. Look for opportunities with local companies that repair or build custom computers. Don't limit yourself to the standard teen opportunities of fast-food restaurants but instead look for opportunities based on what your Aspie enjoys and does well. This helps build skills for the future and increases the chances that he will enjoy and look forward to going to work each day.
Preparing for Job Interviews
While many employers who hire teens are more understanding of undeveloped interview skills, there are certain expectations, such as making eye contact, and your teen may be passed over for jobs if he makes a poor first impression. Before sending him on interviews, use books, videos and role-playing to get him ready to meet with potential employees. The high school guidance office may also have programs for job-readiness. The more preparation and practice, the more comfortable your teen will be during the interview.
Preparing for Working
Depending on the job your Aspie gets, he may need to interact with co-workers. If you see this as a potential problem, start role-playing different scenarios and explaining how he should react when there is a problem. If your teen has difficult taking criticism, talk to him about constructive criticism and explain that the role of a supervisor is, in part, to point out areas he can improve his performance. Many Aspies find great success in the workplace and with the proper preparation and support, there is no reason why your Aspie cannot succeed.
Published On: November 17, 2011