Thursday, January 9, 2014

Employment: What is too much support and what is not enough

I came across this POST at the blog by law professor Anne Althouse BLOG. 
The issue concerns the amount of support an employer is required to offer someone with aspergers and/or depression under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Here is the comment I left:

As the parent of two young men with aspergers and a volunteer autism advocate I am going to add my two cents in here. Society has a way of demonizing those with invisible disabilities. Mental illness and developmental disabilities are horribly misunderstood and we can thank the media hype and ignorance for this state of affairs.

On the other hand it is because of law suits like this one that employers do NOT hire those otherwise highly competent individuals with aspergers or mental illnesses. And this is why most keep their disability a secret. While it is important that employers understand and support persons with disabilities, it is up to the individual to learn to function in the real world and to learn how to behave and function in an appropriate manner. You MUST be able to do your job like others notwithstanding your disability.

Recent studies have shown that adults on the autism spectrum have been fired from jobs that they have done competently due to social interaction and corporate political reasons. More training for those on the spectrum is necessary as is social awareness of the problems faced by aspergeans and how to help those on the spectrum.

From what I read here the school did try to support the professor by sending him to seek counseling and discussing his issues with him ad nauseum. However, it is ultimately up to the professor to have seen to his own well being, as any adult is required to do. He should have sought out counseling on his own to help him with his social interactions and self-help techniques in dealing with highly anxiety prone situations and how to interact with his students. That there should have been a go-between for him with the administration or human resources is truly stretching the ADA. If he had seen a therapist his therapist could have acted as his go-between. Infact the therapist and the school could have worked together to help the professor do his job properly. But it is a joint effort, not simply an effort for the school. There does not seem to be any effort on the part of this professor to seek any form of joint private/employer support.

Remember: His job is to teach not to berate and destroy his students.
Whenever an employee's actions places the employer in a situation of being sued due to their behavior or incompetence, the employer is not required to place its entire livelihood at risk for this person as long as the employer made a good faith effort to try to support that disabled individual.


On another point: there is a tremendous amount of disinformation about aspergers and autism in this thread and I might add in this post. Persons with aspergers are not necessarily devoid of emotional attachment, misunderstanding of other's feelings nor have the inability to function appropriately in the real world. This is an outdated and outmoded way of thinking. If anyone is interested in learning more about autism and aspergers please go to my blog Raising Asperger's Kids at You can also email me if you have any questions.

Professor Althouse: Thank you for posting this comment.


Truthfully this article once again raises the real-world questions of "what do to and how to prepare" your children for the adult-working world when they have an invisible disability. While anyone who reads this blog knows that we are still providing para support for the boys through college and graduate school, we are not quite sure how to proceed when it comes to employment realities. We are more than happy to offer job coaches for the boys and to send someone with them when they do go out into the adult-sphere.

But the question remains will an employer be amendable to that reality?
Will they take the chance to hire a person that is in need of that kind of support?
And what is someone who needs job training and support but can't afford it, to do?
Is it up to the employer to provide the job coach? They do have diversity experts come in and they do have human resource persons teach about sexual harassment in  the work place so why not support for those on the spectrum?
Is it up to the employer to provide a go between and a therapist on staff, so that anyone with  any kind of issue has someone to reach out to?
Is the employer supposed to sublimate their bottom line and perhaps put in danger the jobs of every other person who they employ, to keep on someone who cannot appropriately function in a corporate environment?

Truth is that the answers to these questions will eventually be forthcoming. Lawsuits are in process, like the one linked to at Althouse. But in the end I am not certain that that helps our children. As I mentioned in the comment, the fear of these lawsuits is why our children do NOT get hired. I am concerned that these lawsuits do not do our children any favor in the short or long term. If the employer is forced to put more money into human resources for persons on the spectrum then they will simply find a way to NOT hire aspergeans by asking pointed questions in the interviews to figure out who they are.

No the boys do not tell anyone about their aspergers until after they are hired, but there are those little idiosyncrasies, and speech cadences, that come out in the interview process that anyone with any kind of awareness can tell that the boys are on the spectrum. In fact during a job fair, one of the presenters, after talking to MrGS, mentioned that they hire those with disabilities. And no, he did not hear back from anyone of the presenting companies.

So as we go into the spring semester and begin to apply for internships and summer jobs, I am full of questions, trepidation and numerous plans. Of course, first they need to get jobs/internships. Then we will figure out the next move.

We can offer to send a job coach and offer to work with the employer so that everyone has a good summer. This does not preclude the pre-job work that needs to occur so that they know how to talk to people, work in a corporate environment and deal with little stresses and "curve balls" that are part and parcel of any adult world. And yes, I know the way they learn best is dealing with the issues as they occur. So for that we are going to have to find some truly compassionate employers who will work with the boys, the job coach, the therapist and us.

Now I need to tell myself to Breathe......

I think at this point its all we can do.



  1. Have you considered having your sons apply to companies that have a reputation for hiring folks with special needs? My niece K (who is 25 and has DS) has a job she loves at Walgreens in South Carolina and a number of her friends (many of whom have special needs too) work at a nearby COSTCO. K’s had the same job for years, as have many of her friends, and both companies have a reputation for being disability-friendly.
    Another option would be to have your sons apply for positions with the municipal or federal government, which in most states have programs geared towards hiring those with special needs and usually have job coach-like support services in place. Or a Specialisterne-like firm, that specifically hires people with ASDs and provides job coach-like support to both the employee and employer*.
    In a professional workplace, I’m not so sure how sending a job coach you hired to work with your son would work out - confidentiality issues? Security clearances? Disruption to workflow? Disturbances to colleagues in a shared office? – but, well, I guess you never know.
    (As an aside, I’m really surprized that this law professor is having issues with his employer. Based on my personal experience as a faculty kid, a college is a super-duper supportive environment for a person with an ASD. Both my parents are physics professors and probably 60-70% their colleagues – if they were 30-40 years younger – would likely have been diagnosed as on the spectrum. Heck, I studied geophysics in grad school and my advisor had his lab moved to a different building – so that he would no longer cross paths with “Dr. X” on a daily basis – after what was referred as the Great Snowball Earth Argument of 1999. Really. This kind of thing apparently happened every few years, nobody batted an eyelash and is just par for the course. I can’t imagine an environment more suited to the particular skills/needs of an Aspie than a university).

    1. Hi Macey,

      Thanks for the ideas and your comment.

      My son is a masters candidate in computer science and is very interested in criminal justice, forensics and cyber security so a government job seems where he will be heading eventually. Unfortunately so many agencies both federal and state are not hiring now it is almost impossible to get a job.

      I agree with you about the issues surrounding a job coach, that is why I am concerned, but if the company has to hire a deaf interpreter or support person for someone who is blind, then they would have to face the same issues as a job coach. In truth, I figured we would broach that subject when we got there.

      I also agree with you about the law professor issues. But having gone to law school I can tell you that law schools are not warm and cuddly places. It is very different than the STEM departments. Acceptance in the STEM fields is across the board. In fact MRGS does not really stand out at all at his school. So far the law school has not answered the law suit so we only have one side of the story. I think there is more going on here than we know.



Any comments that are racist, anti-Semitic, misogynistic or insulting diatribes will not be published. This blog is for grown-ups. Comments using four-letter words or questioning someone else's intelligence will not be published. If you wish to add something worthwhile to the discussion that would be appreciated. If you are still confused read the caveat section.