Vocational Targets for Students with Autism

Every year when I sat down with one of my favorite students to get ready for her IEP meeting, we had nearly the same conversation…

Me: So Katie, what do you want to do when you graduate.

Katie: I want to deliver babies.

Me: That means being a doctor. You would have to go to college for a long time to do that.

Katie: That’s okay. I like school.

Me. Katie, you can’t read and don’t like to write. It may be hard to get into medical school and graduate.

Katie: I guess so.

Me: Is there another job might like?

Katie: Yes! I want to deliver babies!

Me: *Sigh*

Fast forward a few years and Katie did end up getting a pretty great job. It was not delivering babies, but she works at the grocery store near my house. Her most favorite part of the job is when she gets to stock the items in the baby section- she tells me that all the time.

Vocational Targets for Students with Autism- 7 Skills to help get your students job ready.

Targeting HOW to Get a Job

I’ve traded on my good looks in the past… but that will only get you so far. Like our students, there is some skill involved in getting a job. You have to know a few things- a smile alone will only get you so far.

So what are some skills you can target as you work with students in Autism Units or LIFE Skills? Here are a few:


Identifying Preferred Jobs
I know, this seems like a no brainer. You would be amazed how rarely we stop to ask a student what they like to do. We tend to focus a lot on what a student is able to do instead. While this is absolutely something we as educators and parents have to consider, is it enough?

Think about this- most of our students will work in a job that relies on a repetitive task. Once we train a student on the task and get them independent we will exit… but that repetitive task can be anywhere. If a student aspires to work as a doctor, maybe they will end up preparing first aid kits in a medical facility. Love to interact with people, maybe a busy distribution center with a break room that needs stocking and cleaning. One of these jobs is very solitary and the other very social. We can teach the skills, but personality does play a part. Remember, a person is more than their disability and preferences matter.

Try this inventory to get some more information from students and parents. Or you can also use this online interest assessment from EmploymentWorks.

Vocational Targets for Students with Autism- 7 Skills to help get your students job ready.

Completing a Job Application
I was in a classroom last week and saw a room full of students filling out paper applications.

As in their personal information on paper.

With a pen.

On paper…

When was the last time YOU filled out a paper application for anything?



Most (and by most I mean nearly all) applications are online these days. Walmart has a kiosk to apply, Grocery Stores send you to their online page, and with mobile apps for job search engines, things are just digital.

Try these online practice applications with your students and kids to make sure they are learning their personal information but also saying current with technology. The one at CareerPoint is great and so is the one at ExperienceWorks.


Poor social skills are a huge red flag for human resources as they hire for their companies. So you can imagine how important it is to make a good first impression at an interview. Most employers that hire are well aware that a person is applying with special needs- but we want to make sure that they seem social and will mesh well with the company and other employees.

Practicing interviews is a great skill to build communication, practice social skills, and also prepare for a job. Been awhile since your last interview? Try these from CareerPoint or using this visual from Prepary.  Work these into your daily lesson- try it as a warm up, a writing task, or even using the cooperative learning method like pair-share. Also read more on improving social skills in a prior post HERE.

Vocational Targets for Students with Autism- 7 Skills to help get your students job ready.

Vocational Targets for Students with Autism

Want to move towards building a true skill set for your student? There are a few job related social skills as well as general vocational skills that every student who will be employed needs. These are the 7 skills you should target as you work in your classroom, in your school community, and out in the greater community to prepare students to be job ready:

  • Asking for Assistance
  • Accepting Criticism
  • Navigating the Workplace
  • Following Multi-step Directions
  • Working Independently
  • Managing Time
  • Staying Safe around Equipment and Others

And then there are other skills that are specific to a certain job, but developing these soft skills will make a student employable with several types of jobs and industries.

Need Vocational Tasks to Work On?

Ready to get going with Vocational Tasks but need some tasks to vocation with? Try these:

Vocational Targets for Students with Autism

So now you know how to find out what your students wants to do, you can see what skills to work on to get and keep a job, and you have seen a few vocational tasks you can practice in the classroom to build these skills.

Easy-Peasy? Well, not really. One other make or break skills is Hygiene and Grooming. Be sure to work on this in the background of everything you do. Knowing how you smell, what you look like, and keeping clean is one of the biggest keys to keeping a job. Read here to learn more.

So what now? Set Those Targets and Teach On!


Vocational Targets for Students with Autism- 7 Skills to help get your students job ready.
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Vocational Targets for Students with Autism- 7 Skills to help get your students job ready.

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