BY MICHAEL BERNICK | OCTOBER 15, 2012
On the first Saturday of each month, we of the Autism Job Club of the Bay Area gather at 10 a.m. at the Arc building at Howard and 11th Streets in San Francisco. The 30 of us usually in attendance are adults with autism and their friends and parents. We have been meeting regularly since late 2011. Given the demographics of autism in California (an estimated one in 88 children in California is diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder), we will be a significant part of the state’s future labor force, even though it is unclear how we will fit in.
Most of us, like my 23-year-old son William, are “Aspies,” diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, the “high-functioning” form of autism—although, as autism is a spectrum disorder, distinctions between types of autism are not sharp. Nearly all of us have some college education, and the majority have college degrees. Yet most of us exist on the margins of the job market, without steady jobs, even when the economy is good.
We start each meeting by going around the room and providing updates on our job searches:
- Robert is in early 30s, with a degree from San Francisco State University in child/adolescent education. His job history includes short-term stints as a courtesy clerk at a large supermarket, as a busman at a coffee shop chain, and a four-month position in the technology department of a major hotel.
- Gabriel, late 20s, who has some college credits, does short-term transcription gigs he finds through family contacts while he seeks a full-time job.
- Martha, also late 20s, has a master’s degree in library science but has been able only to find work 12 hours a week as a clerk in a small legal office.
- Mark, early 40s, worked in an IT consulting firm for 15 years, but his business partner died four years ago, and the business collapsed.
- Jim, 72, is the senior member of our group. He has college degrees in physics and chemistry and worked on a project basis a few years back for Apple. Mainly, though, he has worked in non-technology jobs: delivering pizza, doing yard work, supervising an... READ MORE >