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Your Dollars @ Work: Developing iResumes to Demonstrate Strengths

In the Your Dollars @ Work post below, Sara LaMontagne, MA, LSW, and Dr. Jeff Salt, clinical psychologist, both of Have Dreams in Chicago, Illinois, talk about their organization's development of a digital resume that can be used to effectively demonstrate the specific vocational strengths of an individual with autism, thanks to an Autism Speaks Family Services Community Grant!

Many adults with ASD have skills that can be applied in business, vocational or volunteer settings. However, frequently they require support to help effectively communicate strengths, skills and experiences to employers. Deficits in communication and social skills leave individuals with autism at a disadvantage in the interview process and often result in their inability to secure employment.

We proposed to develop an ‘iresume’ or digital resume that could be used to effectively demonstrate each individual’s vocational strengths to employers.

The digital resume was designed to allow potential employers to actively observe an individual performing job related skills. This was achieved by inserting video clips of adults with ASD performing work-related tasks, into a portable CV. The video clips emphasized their abilities, independence and range of vocational skill sets. The digital resume template also contained information related to their personal information, prior job experiences and interests. Some of our adult participants were able to create their own resume with little help, some required much support from our job coaches. An example of some of the slides is below:

The resume was designed by Tom Dempsey, Transition Consultant for Have Dreams, with a simple interface to allow for motor dexterity issues. Each page had basic ‘buttons’ to push to display a video, return to a previous screen, or move forward. This allowed our individuals to control the audio-visual at their own pace. Our final report, available on the Autism Speaks family services grant webpage, contains examples of the e-portfolio interface as well as results of our evaluation with employers.

Thanks to the Family Services Grant that Have Dreams received through Autism Speaks, we were able to develop an e-portfolio and conduct interviews with business partners to evaluate its worth. We demonstrated the digital resume with potential employers and the feedback was remarkably positive. All 20 indicated that they would consider employing someone who used this type of resume at interview:

  • One interviewer commented, "These digital portfolios are very informative and the hands on experience, I believe, is great for all those involved.”
  • Another interviewer “thought it was very helpful and a very interactive means to show off and demonstrate skills.”
  • Almost all the employers we surveyed wanted even more video clips contained within the e-portfolio for each adult with ASD. This is great information for future inclusion.
  • Jeff Blach, Evanston Library, commented that for the person with autism, the digital resume shows “strengths and abilities that wouldn’t otherwise be available to see in a traditional interview.”
  • Mary Kling, Volunteer Coordinator, Evanston stated “how useful it is to have ASD individuals present their skills on a digital device in a visually appealing form.”

Furthermore, our adults with ASD, appeared to revel in their own e-portfolio. Their self-rating scores for the application were very high. Doug, 23, commented "I like having an e-portfolio because it is a more visual and detailed version of my resume." Jackie, 22, stated, “"I like it when I show people how I work hard at my job and how I can get a real job in the future."

Have Dreams collaboration with local businesses has revealed many positive aspirations. Jean Kroll of “I Love Sweets” bakery has demonstrated, using independent metrics, that adults with ASD can be as productive as those without autism. She refers to hiring adults with autism as “a good business decision.”

Mary Kling Volunteer Coordinator, describes adults with ASD as “dependable people, amazing workers” and states “the only thing we don’t like, is when they leave!” Have Dreams hopes that more employers will be able to see the social and business utility of hiring individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Getting an interview is the first step.

The ‘iResume’ helps to bridge the gap between the inability of an individual with autism to successfully participate in the interview process and demonstrate abilities they gained as a result of their vocational training program. Seeking employment utilizing this tool affords individuals with autism increased independence in the interview process and helps them to get one step closer to obtaining meaningful employment.

The funds from Autism Speaks allowed us to take an idea that we had in theory and turn it into a reality for our adults on the spectrum. Through our team of Have Dreams job coaches, we were able to show potential employers the skills that our adults with ASD were capable of. 

Read Have Dreams final report for more information here!

New! Yesterday, Autism Speaks launched TheSpectrumCareers.com, an online jobs portal to connect employers with qualified individuals with autism and other disabilities. Learn more!

Check out the Autism Speaks Employment Tool Kit here!

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.