I went to the Historic Sixth & I Synagogue last night to hear Temple Grandin speak about her new book, The Autistic Brain. Instead what she talked about was the need for employment for the autistic individual. Yeah for her! I work in the field of finding employment for students on the spectrum. It is hard work! But it is rewarding as well! I have students in a wide range of positions… courtesy technician at Jiffy Lube; graphic design artist, bakery student, grocery store employees, office employees and a child care worker. I have other students looking for work in dog day care, in recreation and internet technology. I have students working towards transferring to a four year college and others considering vocational education. I think Temple Grandin would approve.
She talked about the need for developing soft skills. They are skills that can be taught such as eye contact and shaking hands. These are often over looked skills. I agree with her…the lack of soft skills mastery is what make people on the spectrum stand out. These skills are necessary in order to find employment. Employers won’t hire people who can’t look them in the eye; they seem untrustworthy. They won’t hire people who don’t understand how to dress for work; they seem unprofessional. They won’t hire people with limp or too hard hand shakes; they seem impersonal. I try to teach these skills. It drives the students mad. They don’t believe me when I tell them how necessary it is, until someone else tells them the truth. “Look me in the eye when you talk to me.” If I could only impress my students with the importance of this. It would improve their employ-ability exponentially.
She talked about her experiences: taking coats and serving drinks at her parents’ parties; painting signs at a carnival to pay her bills in college; visiting her grandmothers ranch as a child. All of these things taught her soft skills and how to overcome her autistic behaviors. People need to work; to do something productive; to give their lives meaning and value. Thank you Temple Grandin for reinforcing the things that I have believed from day one. I applaud you!