Many youth on the autism spectrum are concerned about the inevitability of needing to joining the workforce. Armando Rodriguez is an example of one teenage boy from Indiana who has been working hard and taking steps to join the workforce full time following his graduation from high school this June.
Rodriguez is a high school senior and currently works part-time at a TGI Friday’s in Indianapolis when he’s not attending classes. There, he learns a combination of both hard and soft skills, including time management, food prep, and money handling. In an interview with WTHR, the teacher of Armando’s life skills class told reporters that them that they work towards a goal of fostering independence and workplace skills.
Rodriguez has been very successful thus far and his friendliness, precision, and attention to detail are obvious to both coworkers and guests at TGI Friday’s.
The issue of employment for individuals on the spectrum has been discussed many times before on the American Autism Association blog due to the fact they disproportionately face serious levels of unemployment and underemployment. In our blog post “Problems with Employment for Individuals with Autism”, we discussed the high unemployment rates of recent high school graduates with autism. With unemployment as high as 66% within the first two years of graduating high school and at 23% six years after graduation, the topic causes a lot of concern for those on the spectrum as well as their parents, relatives, and caregivers.
We’ve also highlighted businesses and programs like Coding Autism, Popcorn for the People, and Invictus Enterprises, which have made an explicit effort to both provide training and job opportunities for individuals on the spectrum. They have proven invaluable to those on the spectrum and those who care for them.
According to the CDC, the prevalence of autism in children currently stands at between 1% and 2%. Over 3 million people in America are living with autism in total, according to the Autism Society. 2% or 3% doesn’t sound like very much at first, but when you translate that into a specific number, it becomes apparent how many people are harmfully impacted by low rates of employment.
A lot of work needs to be done to improve the employment rates of people on the spectrum. Rodriguez is a force to be reckoned with and is a positive example of what many people on the spectrum can accomplish when provided with the appropriate tools, support system, and other resources. Additional measures to make workspaces more competent of disability issues in tandem with skills training for individuals with autism need to be made more accessible in order for real improvement to be made.