Those individuals with autism lack elements of what behavioral scientists call emotional intelligence. Some years ago studies revealed that degree of emotional intelligence has a good deal to do with success. Emotional intelligenceinvolves the ability to delay gratification and have, what some people call, patience. But lack of patience and impulse control is the hallmark of many of those with autism, making them vulnerable to job problems, education difficulties and the ability to be successful.
Surely there are successful people with autism. That’s because it is a spectrum disorder with some individuals functioning very well on that spectrum and others who have serious problems. On the other hand, a classic characteristic is difficulty with attention and being able to delay gratification. That means foregoing rewards that are immediate in order to make long range achievements. This characteristic can stand in the way of the autistic person’s achievement, in spite of superior abilities.
Many high functioning individuals with autism, or Asperger’s Syndrome, which is the definition of higher functioning people in the spectrum related to autism, find occupations where they can function at their own pace, establish their own goals and work to their own special inner “drummer.” The artist can find immediate gratification in seeing color on canvas, shape take form, form develop into a structural whole. There is ongoing reward-reinforcement from that activity, and as the literature shows art is an area where some individuals with autism have been successful.
Those who are involved in research may also self pace their work. They receive immediate reinforcement from being able to watch results as those results unfold. That allows the type of gratification needed for the individual with autism to be successful. Attention that is oriented towards a particular interest has been shown to be a key to developing the talent of an individual with autism. So finding that area and orienting the person towards achievement in that way can be helpful.
Knowing about emotional intelligence and the aspects of autism can help vocational planning. If the individual has attention difficulties and problems in delaying gratification, jobs that allow for immediate reinforcement would likely be the best route for these individuals. These occupations on the lower end would be assembly workers, where routine and visual feedback are present, building models, computer systems and art projects would be possibilities depending upon the degree of talent and ability.
Parents, counselors and teachers can be helpful early on in the development of the individual with autism by looking for areas of singular interest, rewarding those areas and looking at related occupations that might be possible avenues for training. The earlier this is established, the better for the individual. Many people with autism can have good jobs and support themselves and others if they are given appropriate therapy and vocational direction. Looking at the parameters of emotional intelligence together with skill areas would be helpful for many of these individuals early on.