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January 2011



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COLUMBIA — Jeremy Jacobi, 22, was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome when he was 16 and is slowly building the skills he needs to live on his own and support himself financially.

“It’s been extremely difficult for me to get a job, to market myself and stand out from other people,” he said.

Jacobi is part of a large group of people with an autism spectrum disorder, which can hinder a person’s ability to communicate and socially interact. Many people with these disorders have difficulty finding and maintaining employment.

Scott Standifer, an MU clinical associate professor in the School of Health Professions, has created a guide to help change that.

Standifer said because adults with Asperger’s syndrome and high functioning autism tend to be more vocal and get more of what he called “scholarly attention,” he mainly wanted to address employment issues for people who have little or no communication skills. 

“These individuals face the most significant challenges, and what works for them should also be relevant for people with Asperger’s,” he said.

Standifer’s guide aims to make sure the adult autistic community isn’t forgotten.

Jacobi has a strong interest in computer technology and has applied his skills through an internship with MU’s athletics department in information technology and at his prior job at Columbia Computer Center.

But Jacobi said some of his behaviors in the workplace were not tolerated.

“A lot of times, I spoke my mind without thinking about if I was hurting other people’s feelings,” he said.

Staci Bowlen, the director of the Columbia branch of TouchPoint Autism Services, a program that provides services to people with autism spectrum disorders, said adults with autism typically face challenges such as communicating with customers and knowing what is appropriate to say in interviews and on the job. She said she has noticed there isn’t much information made available to help them find employment.

“Everything surrounds children,” Bowlen said. “What people don’t see is that this child grows up.”

Booklet available online 
Scott Standifer’s guide, “Adult Autism and Employment: A Guide for Vocational Rehabilitation Professionals” is available online at http://www.dps.missouri.edu/Autism.html?cmpNWS

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