Unemployment is one of the many difficulties plaguing the autism community. Statistics show that over 90 percent of people with autism have no job and earn no money at all or are not working enough hours to make ends meet. When someone with autism is deemed unable to work, whether it is by him/herself, parents, another caregiver, or the government, financial assistance from the government is often sought through Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). While these allow the person with autism to receive some money, it’s nowhere near enough to make a suitable living or to lead a satisfactory lifestyle. Yet, so many individuals on the spectrum are seemingly unwilling or unable to pursue the suitable living and satisfactory lifestyle that can and should be theirs! As a result, these individuals get caught up in vicious cycles and are at the mercy of governmental income limitations. As someone who envisions all people with autism living up to their true potential and becoming their best selves, I say we can do better!
Here are some tips that can help you break your vicious cycle, see past your limiting beliefs and wean yourself off of governmental financial assistance.
- Know your worth.
This is about more than answering how much money you want to earn or have…it’s about knowing what strengths, abilities, traits and other characteristics that you have going for you and what you can offer the people of this world. One of the quickest ways to heighten your self-worth is to stop comparing yourself to others. We are all going through life at our own pace and it’s not a race to beat others, but rather to be better than the person you were yesterday. Focus on your own journey, your own goals and your own progress every day.
Your thoughts about yourself will determine how well you do when faced with obstacles or challenges. If you think to yourself, “I can’t do this,” “I’m going to fail” or “Why do I bother?” then you’ll likely have a poor outcome. On the other hand, if you think, “I can do this,” “I will succeed” or “This is going to make me a better person…and I’m worth it!” then you will have a much better outcome! Your opinion about yourself beats anyone else’s opinion about you. When you let other people such as your parents, caregiver(s) or even the government determine your worth and how much you can make in a given month or other timeframe, you run the significant risk of not living the best possible life that you can! So be sure to keep your thoughts positive and your sense of self-worth will become more positive, too!
- Find your niche.
We all have a niche…a place or field of work where we fit right in! Plus, we all have something that we do better than anyone else on the planet…something that can earn you money, respect, power, love and so much more of you want out of life. Maybe you do drawings that make people happy and they’ll pay you some money for it. You could be an awesome listener and are always there for the people you care about when they need you and they’ll do something for you in return. Perhaps something you do “for fun” can be made into a business or a not-for-profit organization. Some signs of your niche include, but are not limited to:
-Something you do that makes you and others happy
-Something you don’t mind doing for free, but can get paid for
-Something that comes naturally or instinctually to you
-Somewhere you are welcomed and appreciated
SSI and SSDI limitations keep you stuck and can actually discourage you from finding your niche and becoming your best self. Too many people that receive SSI and SSDI do NOT create value for others nor earn money for themselves because they do not want to exceed the applicable thresholds or risk losing out on governmental money. In addition, there are those that would rather do nothing and earn a dissatisfactory amount of money (which doesn’t even cover your rent and other basic expenses, right?!?) rather than make a difference and a change for the better. Guess what? Doing nothing is no longer an option! You owe it to yourself and to others on this planet to find and share your gifts with the world. Doing so honors your ancestry and shows respect for your community as you make efforts to contribute and give something back. I encourage you to find paid work within your niche and create enough to earn enough so that you can pursue happiness for yourself and to break free of the imposed governmental limits!
- Make a plan.
After you’ve gotten a better sense of your self-worth and found your niche, it’s time to make a plan to wean yourself OFF of governmental assistance. I know it sounds scary to hear that; however, remember what Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or you can’t…you’re right!” Would you rather live an ordinary life or an extraordinary life? (Hint: The answer is extraordinary!) Being subject to SSI/SSDI limitations keeps you from realizing what you’re truly capable of doing and keeps you living an ordinary life, at best. You deserve better than an ordinary life!
Success is not an event, but a process. It takes time, effort and dedication on your part. Start small in a given month by earning a little bit more from your “niche” work and less from your SSI/SSDI. As time goes on, make efforts to increase your “niche” earnings even more and remain dedicated to the notion that you can and will be better than where you are. Before you know it, your “niche” earnings in a given month can and will exceed your SSI/SSDI earnings! Once your “niche” earnings exceed your entire month’s SSI/SSDI benefits, you will have broken through the ceiling and you will be on your way to living the life that you were meant to live…FREE of governmental sanctions! The government wants to keep you DOWN…show them UP! I know you can!!!
As I wrap up, I understand that some of you may think that I don’t understand the system and that this is “ableist” or “elitist” of me to write. I pose this question to you…if I’m “ableist”…are you “unableist”? Is your attitude and outlook on life so negative that you don’t see the point in people with autism realizing their potential and living their happiest life? If so, I suggest you really take the time to re-evaluate your own potential and happiness.
The artist Michelangelo once said, “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.” I’m not receiving any SSI/SSDI nor do I have any desire to do so, for I do not wish to be held back by governmental or any other limitations. I continue to imagine a world where people with autism will see past their own limiting beliefs and the limiting beliefs others impose on them. If you wish to join me in this vision, I’ll be shooting for the stars…and the only way to look…is UP!!!