Autism Spectrum

Launchpad

leaving school and leading your own life

Volunteering , work experience & internship

stories for parents

 

Approaching family and friends to find work experience

When it comes to my son I am fairly tenacious. I am all too aware of the bleak employment prospects for many young people with autism and I am determined to do everything possible to give him the best shot possible at getting a job and being part of the wider community.

 

So, when Harry was in Year 10, I decided to reach out to family and friends to see if anyone could provide Harry with some work experience opportunities. I saw this as being beneficial in a number of ways – firstly to find out what types of work Harry enjoyed and did well, secondly to get feedback from people that I knew and trusted as to any potential barriers for Harry in the workplace and finally to start to build a resume for Harry as I knew he would not be able to rely on academic results to open doors for him.

 

I brainstormed and came up with a list of everyone I knew who was in a position to potentially offer Harry some work experience – a brother who is a CEO of a credit union, my father who runs an online business, a friend who owns a number of swimming schools, another friend who holds a senior position in an international company and several colleagues who run therapy centres. In total, I came up with about 12 possibilities.

 

My email stated that Harry was keen to do work experience, I listed his strengths and the kinds of tasks he was best suited to. I offered him up for school holidays or for a few hours a week which his school schedule allowed (with his permission of course!). Everyone responded with a desire to help and Harry ended up working in five different settings in a twelve month period. One he returned to several times to help out in busy periods.

 

These were fantastic opportunities for him – he met new people, tried new things and learnt more about what he liked and didn’t like doing. I was also able to get feedback about the sorts of things he was best suited to.

 

Now that he has left school, his resume includes these work experience opportunities. Everyone who supervised him expressed a willingness to act as a referee for him in any future job applications. I think work experience opportunities in these later years of high school are invaluable.

 

You will be surprised who may be willing to help you if you just ask – be sure to think carefully about your child’s natural strengths and try and seek out opportunities that make best use of them. In my son’s case it was office based tasks but for others it might be animal care, computing, design or cleaning. It doesn’t really matter – just getting some practical experience and building some possible networks for the future is what it is about.

Vicki G