Helping People with Asperger’s Move Forward

Barbara Bissonnette from Forward Motion Coaching presented a seminar entitled “Finding Employment that Works for Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome.” The seminar was sponsored by WCDA with special rates for members.

Board members Kathy Eidsmoe (CESA #1, Educational Consultant) and Sheri Eisch (Gateway Technical College, Career Counselor) attended the seminar on working with individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome. They shared their valuable insights on the experience.

Eidsmoe provided a description of how Bissonette supports employment success. “Imagine being interviewed for jobs 35 times and never being hired despite being quite skilled in many of the job requirements. Meanwhile, your brain is ‘wired’ in such a way, in regards to reflection and interpersonal self-evaluation, that it can’t navigate the interactions during interviews to determine how you need to improve. This is a reality for many people diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum when they seek employment. Barbara Bissonette, Forward Motion Coaching, has dedicated her career to help those with Asperger’s understand, modify behavior, and develop a repertoire of behavior that fosters a higher rate of success when looking for employment.”

Eisch shared how attending Bissonette’s seminar will contribute to her work with clients. “Barbara speaks directly from her work with clients with Asperger’s in assisting them in securing competitive employment. Barbara provided great activities in her booklet to give insight to what it would be like for a person with Asperger’s Syndrome to process the information they are hearing or reading. With this insight, we can see how a person with Asperger’s might be easily distracted or not understand the full meaning of what is being said. For example, a person with Asperger’s might notice more details about their physical environment like a pattern on the carpet, certain noises, or fixate on a typo. They might interpret language literally and not understand sarcasm or implied meaning. Also, they may have trouble interpreting nonverbal signs, be unaware of their own body language, and how their behavior is viewed by others.

I know this seminar will be helpful for me in the future when I work with a student with Asperger’s Syndrome. For instance, a student may request that I repeat myself several times. The need for repetition may be due to the fact that the student is processing information. Barbara writes that often working with individuals with Asperger’s, we need to be a pragmatist. By doing so, we can support their focus on ‘how-to’ skills by avoiding jargon and abstract ideas. I find this advice to be very valuable in helping me assist students with Asperger’s Syndrome.”

About Julie Hau

Dr. Julie Hau has a doctorate from the UW-Madison in Counseling Psychology. She has worked as a career counselor, professor, and academic advisor. She works at the Center on Education and Work, UW-Madison. Currently, she is on the WCDA board as Outreach and chair of the Social Media Committee.