BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — During the month of April, 23ABC is honoring Autism Acceptance Month.
An ongoing effort to promote autism awareness to assure that all affected by the developmental disorder are able to achieve a high quality of life.
Autism Speaks estimates that nearly half of 25-year-olds with autism have never held a paying job and that, as high as 85%, are unemployed.
An employee who works right here at 23ABC News said sometimes he feels misunderstood when speaking to employers during the interview process and said most people on the autism spectrum are capable of obtaining a professional job.
This is 23ABC News Morning Director Michael Precourt. He has Asperger’s Syndrome, a condition on the autism spectrum, that affects his ability to socialize and communicate.
“Even though I know the answers to the questions, it’s just outwardly communicating them that is not the easiest thing in the world.”
He said he stammers, which means he takes long pauses when he talks. That can make networking and job interviews difficult.
“85% of us don’t have a job at all so the fact that I’m here and employed at all is somewhat of a miracle.”
“My supervisor was able to look past that and see that out of all of the candidates he interviewed for the job who applied and wanted it, that I was the person who fit the job description best.”
Here in the Kern County community, Bakersfield Arc helps adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities gain employment.
Senior Director of Job Development Jaime Valdez Jr. said just because people with autism struggle with communication skills, doesn’t mean they aren’t qualified for employment.
“[For] a lot of employers, it’s like walking on eggshells. They don’t know what to say, what they can’t say, or can I do this, can I do that? Absolutely you can, you’re the employer so we want to make sure everyone is being treated fairly.”
Valdez Jr. said everyone should be treated fairly and helps train adults for the workforce.
“We want to make sure the individual is trained prior to job readiness, resume ready, interview skills, communication skills, time management, anything and everything that has to do with being successful in the workforce.”
Program Manager Yaritza Castro said she was recently diagnosed with autism and was able to get a job working with children.
“This is my first year doing that. I've never been in any type of leadership role before.”
Castro said she’s struggled with instruction and communication skills in the past but this opportunity has helped her grow.
“By understanding myself, I am able to help these kiddos out more too. Because it's more that the irony is I'm teaching them stuff that is a little bit slower for me to grasp so I’m also learning along with them.”
Precourt said if you’re struggling professionally or personally, don’t give up.
“Keep going, keep sending out those applications, and don’t stop interviewing, don’t be afraid to send a follow-up email. I spent about six months interviewing at different locations before I finally got an offer to go to a town I had never even heard of before coming here. I did it, I'm here and I know you can do it too. So, don’t give up you’re going to want to but don’t do it. Just keep going you can do it you can make it.”
Valdez Jr. said he hopes more employers will give people diagnosed with intellectual and developmental disabilities a chance at employment.