April 2, 2016, was the eight annual World Autism Awareness Day. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “On this World Autism Awareness Day, I call for advancing the rights of individuals with autism and ensuring their full participation and inclusion as valued members of our diverse human family who can contribute to a future of dignity and opportunity for all.”
The Asperger Syndrome is a variation of autism. People with Asperger Syndrome have a different perception. Therefore they have difficulties to perceive the feelings and thoughts of others. Because approximately 90 percent of our communication is non-verbal, they have to learn as a complicated foreign language what we perceive easily and instinctively. Despite the best efforts an “accent” is not avoidable and equal like in a foreign language it is difficult to read “between the lines”.
What does this mean for vocational training and education?
In principle, for people with Asperger Syndrome more or less every vocation is possible. They are very often characterised by diligence, reliability, logical thinking, attention to detail and endurance performance. However, their specific needs must be taken into account. At their workplace distractions have to be avoided and the necessary equipment (e.g. hearing protection) or assistive technology has to be used. Other staff members have to structure the tasks and to adapt their instruction and communication. A direct and clear language is essential, sarcasm and irony will not be understood. The only condition is tolerance and goodwill – an attitude, this crreates a win-win-situation for all parties involved.
For sure, every individual is different, althoug for many people with Asperger Syndrome a computer can be a ideal working device.
“...But there is one aspect of the modern world that has the power to transform the lives of many people diagnosed with autism: the computer. Using a keyboard avoids many of the problems associated with face-to-face communication; there are children in autism-friendly surroundings who communicate via a keyboard before they learn to talk; older autistics who never mastered speech have taken to putting their words on screen with a vengeance. The internet has been inseparable from the rise of the autistic activists and dozens of websites now describe their inner worlds and set out their demands. Autistic people are at home in the virtual world…” (Jerome Burne, The Observer, Say it loud, autistic and proud)
A computer makes the environment autism-compatible. To this environment people with an autism background are able to contribute like every other. This applies to school, home and work. For people with Asperger Syndrom, learning and working with computers is often excellent, there are clear rules, reliability, predictability and self-paced training.
The ENTELIS network aims to help to bridge the digital divide also by promoting the acquisition of digital skills. Investment in learning opportunities, training and vocational education programmes for people with Asperger Syndrom will help increase participation and access to equal opportunities.
When looking for a job, for most people with Asperger Syndrome working with groups or social service occupations are not recommended. Apart from these exceptions there is a huge variety of interesting possibilities: all scientific professions (e.g. researcher), all creative professions (e.g. photographer), all administrative professions (e.g. secretary), all professions in the IT sector….
People with Asperger Syndrom, take control of your own (working) life – it is more possible than you might think!
By Andrea Solander Gross, Entelis Partner EVBB