Temple Grandin Eustacia Cutler Autism Fund

The Temple Grandin
and Eustacia Cutler Autism Fund

Aspergers, Autism, Special Education

Helping individuals with ASD have meaningful employment, education, or other opportunities as adults.

Contributors to this roundup blog include Eustacia Cutler, Dr. Cathy Pratt and Temple Grandin, and Renee Gordon.  Please add your comments to this important topic.

eustacia nov speaking

Eustacia Cutler:  Finding the right job for an adult with ASD

Not so long ago, give or take a hundred years, everybody worked from dawn to dusk, from 4 year olds to grandparents.  No one’s energy was squandered.

Autism didn’t exist.  There were just quirky lads with strong backs who milked the cows, mucked out the horse stalls, and chopped wood.  Odd girls who couldn’t look you in the eye were taught to knit, sew and bake, All jobs were honored with the old saying,   “Many hands make light work.”

Though machines do a lot of today’s tasks, there are still an amazing number of hands-on jobs up for grabs. Many ASD high school seniors see college as the only goal, but maybe they’d do better and be happier if they applied to a tech school.  Country roads need nimble electricians to clear overhead wires. Suburban homes pay well for landscape skill. Every home needs carpenters, plasters, plumbers, house electricians and a computer expert. All these jobs require training and pay well.

Even if an ASD senior gets a college degree, what are his chances for the kind of job he’s been taught to expect, and for the kind of payment he will need to live on his own.?


Temple Grandin: Teaching Job Skills
Children with ASD will often be more successful in a career after high school if they learn working skills BEFORE they graduate. Teens need to learn how to do a job on a schedule outside the home. When I was fifteen, mother arranged a sewing job with a local seamstress who worked out of her home. My job was to hem dresses and to take garments apart. When I was fifteen I cleaned horse stalls. There is a discipline and a responsibility to having a job. You have to be on time and do the work.

Today there is a need to find substitutes for the paper routes that no longer exist. It would be easy to have a child walk dogs for a next-door neighbor. It needs to be a neighbor’s dog so that the child learns how to work for somebody who is not a parent. Volunteer jobs can also be arranged outside the home at a church, neighborhood center or retirement home. The child needs to learn that a volunteer job is on a schedule and other people are expecting him/her to be there.


Dr. Cathy Pratt from the Indiana University Resource Center: Here are some helpful tips to facilitate a successful move from school to adult options.

  • When choosing a curriculum or course of study, encourage the person to make choices which both peak their interest and lead to a real job. Many times, areas of interest may not lead to feasible job options. In these cases, people are being prepared for a lifetime of dependency on social services or jobs which are not good matches.
  • During the school years, there are skills which can be taught within the context of the school curriculum which will promote future success. Competencies such as being organized, being prepared, completing assigned tasks, following directions, and interacting with others are important work skills.
  • Involve the person in curriculum options which will teach other important life skills, such as cooking, repairing items, and handling personal finances.
  • Encourage the involvement of students with autism spectrum disorders in extracurricular activities, school clubs, and other social events in hopes of building a network of support for the person that can assist in accessing employment later.
  • During the school years, pursue apprenticeship programs, volunteer positions, or other options that will allow the person to gain experience in a real work environment.
  • Begin to build a resume for the individual. These can be done in various formats by using video, computer, or portfolios that portray competencies.
  • Gradually prepare the individual for the nuances and social demands of the work place. Some behaviors are clearly against the rules of most work environments. Other behaviors will serve to annoy co-workers and may result in termination.
  • Teach behaviors appropriate to specific work sites while in the natural setting.
  • Begin to teach the individual appropriate hygiene and dress for specific work settings.
  • It may be important to teach the person a menu of social interchanges around appropriate topics that can be used to assist with office small talk and during job-related discussions.
  • Initial preparation of the job site can avoid unnecessary difficulties and promote long-term success. Present information in a manner that is respectful of the individual and of his/her co- workers.
  • Although co-workers will serve as the most efficient and effective method of long-term support, a job coach or other support personnel may need to be available to problem-solve difficult decisions and to assist the individual in adjusting to his/her work environment. Once on the job, it may be helpful to identify a mentor whom the person can readily turn to for assistance and advice.
  • When examining job options, consider safe and efficient means of transportation. If public transportation is preferred, supply the person with routes, schedules, and other relevant information. If not, creative options such as hiring drivers, arranging taxi service, or sharing travel expenses with co-workers in exchange for transportation can be pursued.

Renee Gordon 

As a parent of a child with severe autism, I’ve read and re-read Eustacia’s jumping off point and am still feeling very discouraged that, although we refer to autism as a spectrum disorder, we fail to recognize those autistic individuals who fall at the bottom of the spectrum and will never be able to live on their own.  For these individuals, employment is frequently not a viable option.  Rather, parents seek a meaningful day habilitation program that continues to nurture and develop social skills and activities of daily living while including community outings and volunteer work. Take time to watch the webinar with Renee Gordon and Eustacia where Renee discusses her son’s transition in adult life