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From Chapter 11, Activity Schedule for Adults
Choices at Work
Young workers with autism, like us, should have opportunities to make choices about their job placements and their daily work agendas; activity schedules are helpful in this regard (McClannahan, MacDuff, and Krantz, 2002).
As a teenager, Julio learned to use written schedules that cued him to do word processing and data entry tasks, file documents, weed and mulch flower beds, and sweep patios and sidewalks. Later, he was given choices about which tasks to complete. Although his keyboard skills were excellent and he seldom made errors when filing, he consistently chose outdoor tasks that involved manual labor, even when those tasks required a greater time commitment than computer work. Although Julio didn't have sufficient communication skills to express his employment interests, his choices of tasks made his job preferences quite clear. For several years, he has been employed by a local organic farm and he says that he likes his job.
Harry, who is employed as a hotel housekeeper, uses a photographic activity schedule. Pictures of the many tasks associated with cleaning a hotel room were loaded onto his iPod touch, using the photo album feature. Harry's job coach learned how to do the job himself before he took the photographs and put them on the computer; then he used manual guidance and prompt fading to teach the relevant housekeeping skills. Because Harry was an experienced schedule follower, he quickly achieved criterion performances on the new tasks. After he cleans a room, he looks at each photo again--this time to check his work, and then he moves the last coin from his left pocket to his right pocket. Then he chooses a video game on his hand-held computer and briefly plays it before going to clean the next room. Many contemporary pocket computers accommodate multiple photographic activity schedules as well as multiple leisure-time applications.
Work Schedules and Break Time
Chris uses a pocket computer to view his written schedule; he easily navigates from his main schedule to his sub-schedules. He also uses an application that serves as a digital check register, and he is learning to use the clock feature to program multiple alarms that will remind him to keep appointments or take breaks.
For many employees with autism, taking a break is a repertoire that must be taught. Although they may be excellent schedule followers, sitting quietly in a cafeteria or lunch room or talking with co-workers can be challenging. Photographic or written activity schedules address these skill deficits. For example, George's conversational skills were limited, so he was initially taught to take a break at an unoccupied table. His written schedule included the following tasks: get a magazine; get a diet soda; go to the lunch room; say "Hi" or "Hello" to people; sit down at a table; set wristwatch timer for ten minutes; look at magazine; when timer rings, go back to work. George's job coach covertly observed him and later gave him a snack of his choice if he did not engage in any stereotypic or inappropriate behavior during break. But if problem behavior was observed, the job coach quickly entered the lunch room, went to George's table, and quietly said, "Break is over--let's go back to work." George soon mastered his break schedule and looked very competent in the lunch room.
Ari and Jane work in the same corporation and eat lunch together in the employee cafeteria. Previously, each brought a written list of topics to the table; these lists, developed by their job coach, guided their lunchtime conversation. Now, their job coach enters lists of topics on the notes applications on their cell phones to cue social interaction. When Jane and Ari occasionally glance at their cell phones, they look like many other young adults in the cafeteria.