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Difficult Jobs for People with Asperger’s Syndrome

difficult jobs

Many people with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), a form of high-functioning autism, have a higher than average I.Q. but still have difficulty finding suitable employment. Choosing the right job can make the difference between success or failure, and understanding which jobs are not a good fit can be the first step. People with AS should avoid jobs that put significant demands on short-term working memory, which is an area that people with autism struggle with. The following list of jobs are generally considered poor choices for people with Asperger’s Syndrome

Cashier

People with autism have difficulty with short-term memory. This makes the tasks of checking someone out, and making change in a fast moving environment very difficult for them. Although, many cash registers now calculate the change making the demand on short-term memory less, dealing with large numbers of people for a long period of time can become overwhelming.

Receptionist / Telephone Operator

Having to answer calls, place them on hold, locate the person they are looking for, transfer the call and then go to the next caller would quickly overwhelm someone with AS due to the demands it places on their short-term memory. In addition, the demands of social interaction will place enormous stress on them again, leading to feelings of being overwhelmed, and cause panic and meltdowns. If the autistic person experiences auditory processing dysfunction, Sensory Processing Disorder, where their sensory system has difficulty filtering and processing sounds properly, talking on the phone in a busy office can become impossible.

Secretary/Transcriptionist

Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD)commonly accompanies autism, making a career in this field extremely challenging and difficult. People with SPD, process many different sounds simultaneously and have severe difficulty filtering out background noises. Attempting to transcribe recorded dictation, while hearing the filaments in the fluorescent light hum, office phones ringing, co-workers conversations, and sounds of the keyboard as they type can quickly lead to their senses being overwhelmed. While wearing noise-cancelling headphones may alleviate some of the background noise, it also may be uncomfortable to have the volume in the headphones raised to a level high enough to block out outside stimuli.

Retail Sales

Most people with autism, or AS, struggle in social situations. They have difficulty discerning tonal values of voice, body language, and physical cues. These observations are usually required in order to adjust conversations and sales strategies to individual customers. People with Asperger’s Syndrome have tremendous difficulty in this area, and while they may have developed coping skills to help them in limited social interactions, the demands of dealing directly with a large amount of people on a daily basis can rapidly lead to diminished enthusiasm in performing their job. If the environment is overly demanding and stressful, the social interactions be overwhelming and cause feelings of panic.

Like neuro-typical (NT), people without autism, autistic people are all unique individuals. Some may excel in areas that are typically a struggle for those with autism spectrum disorders. However, overall most autistic people struggle with short-term working memory, but have excellent long-term memory. Long-term memory and visual thinking (another autism asset) allow the autistic individual to be ideally suited for jobs like accounting, computer programing, and copy editing. They should focus on this type of work, while avoiding jobs that tax the short-term memory, exacerbate sensory issues, and require prolonged social interactions. See: Good Jobs for People with Asperger’s Syndrome

 

Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert, contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. She lives in New York with her husband and four sons, on the autism spectrum.