Helping Autistic Students Succeed With Pre-Vocational Skills

Helping Autistic Students Succeed With Pre-Vocational Skills

For autistic young adults, acquiring pre-vocational skills is vital for achieving independence and living a fulfilling life. As caregivers, you want to provide the best support, but finding the right resources can be very overwhelming. 

Let me tell you about the importance of pre-vocational skills and give you practical strategies to support autistic students. I will also share eight essential pre-vocational skills that will help your teenager gain independence and self-reliance. Finally, I will introduce some tools to help you measure progress and keep track of your child’s pre-vocational life skill goals. 

What Are Pre-Vocational Skills? 

Pre-vocational skills are the abilities and knowledge you need to prepare for employment, job training, or further education. These skills are essential for people on the autism spectrum to achieve independence and succeed in the workplace. 

To develop pre-vocational skills, you need to gain a range of abilities that help individuals perform job-related tasks like following directions, managing time effectively, and organizing their work. 

For people with autism, acquiring pre-vocational skills can be especially challenging, as they may struggle with executive functioning, social skills, and sensory processing. However, with the right support and strategies, they can develop these skills and become confident in the workplace. 

8 Essential Pre-Vocational Skills

Developing pre-vocational skills can help autistic teenagers and young adults prepare for future employment and achieve independence. Here are eight essential pre-vocational skills that can help your autistic teen or adult gain valuable skills.  

1. Communication Skills

Autistic teens and young adults may struggle with communication due to social challenges. So, it’s important to teach them how to communicate effectively through verbal and nonverbal cues. This includes learning to listen actively, using appropriate terms, and understanding body language. You can learn more about social skills here and get a free social skills checklist.

2. Time Management Skills

Autistic individuals may struggle with time management due to executive functional challenges. That’s why you should teach them how to prioritize tasks, set goals, and manage time effectively. You can learn more about executive function challenges and help with task initiation here.

3. Money Management Skills

People on the autism spectrum may struggle with managing money because they typically have to deal with challenges in executive function and decision-making. Teaching them basic financial skills like budgeting, saving, and responsible spending goes a long way. 

4. Organizational Skills

Organizational skills are important for any job as they can help improve productivity and efficiency. For autistic youth, organizing their workload is a challenge within itself, mostly due to their executive function challenges. It’s important to teach them how to plan, prioritize, and organize their tasks. 

5. Following Instructions

Autistic individuals usually struggle with processing verbal information, which is why following instructions can be a daunting task. As a caregiver, you should teach them how to listen actively and ask for clarification when necessary. 

6. Problem-Solving Skills

Teenagers and young adults may struggle with problem-solving because of their difficulties in flexible thinking and executive functioning. That’s why it’s important to teach them how to break problems down into smaller parts, brainstorm solutions, and evaluate them accordingly. 

7. Social Skills

Social skills help people build relationships with co-workers and customers, so they’re a vital part of any job. It’s safe to say that communication and social interaction don’t come easy for autistic youth, which is why they may need an extra nudge in this direction. It’s important to teach them how to read social cues, manage emotions, and navigate social situations. 

8. Self-Advocacy Skills

Self-advocacy is crucial for individuals with autism, so they can advocate for themselves in the workplace and other settings. Autistic individuals may have a hard time asserting themselves, which is why they need help with identifying their needs, expressing themselves clearly, and negotiating effectively. 

By developing these essential pre-vocational skills, autistic teenagers and young adults can gain independence, confidence, and self-reliance. 

Sensory Processing and Pre-Vocational Skills

Many people with autism struggle with sensory processing, which can affect their ability to develop pre-vocational skills. For example, an individual hypersensitive to touch may struggle with using tools necessary for a certain job. 

On the other hand, someone who’s hypersensitive to touch may have difficulty recognizing when they’re holding a tool too tightly, which can also lead to injury. 

If you need help with that, you can check out the Teen Sensory Processing Guide eBook, an incredibly beneficial resource with a wide range of sensory activities. These activities can help improve pre-vocational skills and overall sensory processing abilities, helping your kid achieve greater independence in their future career. 

Functional Life Skills and Pre-Vocational Skills

Functional life skills are a crucial part of pre-vocational skill development for autistic youth. These skills help people perform everyday activities like managing finances and preparing meals, which are vital for independent living. By learning functional life skills, autistic teens can gain confidence and become better equipped to face the challenges of adulthood. 

Examples of functional life skills that can help with pre-vocational skills include cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and managing money. These skills not only help individuals become more independent but also provide valuable experience for future employment opportunities. 

To assist in learning these skills, you can explore my Mega Bundle of Functional Life Skills Resources for Teens and Adults. This excellent resource includes step-by-step guides for various activities that will build and enforce learning. 

By incorporating functional life skills into pre-vocational skill development, you can help your autistic youth gain the necessary skills for a long and fulfilling life. 

Helping Autistic Students Succeed With Pre-Vocational Skills

Wrapping Up

There are many success stories of autistic individuals who have developed pre-vocational skills and achieved independence, which should serve as an inspiration for you to continue supporting the development of these skills for your loved one. 

Remember that sensory processing difficulties can impact pre-vocational skill development, so try to be patient with your teen or adult. Break down tasks and use visual aids for them, and always remember to motivate your autistic teen to learn these skills as slowly as they need. 

If you need more help with teaching pre-vocational skills, make sure to check out the sensory guide ebook and functional life skills bundle, as they have been life savers for many parents out there. With the right attitude, support, and guidance, your teen can successfully acquire the pre-vocational skills they need and make a fantastic transition into the workforce.

8 Vocational Activities for Autistic Students

8 Vocational Activities for Autistic Students

In this post you will learn about vocational activities you can do to help your students learn valuable job skills.


Vocational activities can make all the difference for people on the spectrum. They prepare autistic students for life post-graduation, help them choose a career path, and help them professionally use their functional life skills.

If you’re wondering what activities to choose and approaches to take while training an autistic student vocationally, I’m here to help!

I’ll give you a list of activities you can try with your students to prepare them for their careers, so follow along!

What Are Vocational Activities?

Vocational activities are tasks meant to prepare students for their careers after graduation. They’re primarily associated with hands-on jobs.

While all students can benefit from vocational activities, autistic students, in particular, need them because they naturally struggle more with the expectations of a working environment. If you are looking for help with writing vocational goals you can check out this post.

8 Vocational Activities for Autistic Students

Here’s a list of vocational activities you can attempt with your autistic students to prepare them for a successful career! If you are looking for ready-made resources already done for you, check out the Work Etiquette Task Cards Bundle Here!

Job Application

Most jobs nowadays require applications before getting employed, including hands-on ones. That's why training your student to complete a job application correctly is a monumental step to guarantee acceptance in future jobs.

For the activity, you can prepare a fake job application and encourage them to correctly fill out all their personal details. Then, go over the applications and highlight points for improvement. You can repeat the activity as many times as needed to reach the desired result.

Writing Resumes

Another important vocational activity for students on the spectrum is writing a resume. While it’ll be challenging at first for the students to write their information in a presentable manner, it’ll help organize their thoughts.

Ideally, you should help them recognize the most sought-after skills in the work field and include them in the resume.

For this activity, you can encourage your students to write their skills, education, strength points, and hobbies on a piece of paper. Then, give them a paper with the layout of a resume, and tell them to fill it using the information they just laid out on the other paper.

Work Etiquette Task Cards Bundle product image

Job Interview

The biggest challenge that autistic students face while joining the workforce is communicating correctly with people outside their comfort zone. That’s why a job interview can be a tall order for someone who hasn’t trained enough for it.

To try this activity, encourage your student to dress formally and prepare their resume beforehand. Then, interview them while asking generic questions about their strengths and weaknesses, their hopes for the job, and more.

Public Transportation

Starting a career for autistic students means moving independently, which requires public transportation. Since it’s something every student faces, I couldn’t make this list without including it as an essential vocational activity.

The activity can be as simple as teaching your student to read bus schedules or as detailed as taking them out to ride it in person. You should also boost their awareness about safety measures in public and how much transportation costs to and from their workplace daily.

Reading Maps

A fair share of everyday life situations includes using a road map. Suppose your student misses the bus and has to take a different route to work. Also, some jobs involve moving a lot, like delivery personnel. That’s why map reading is an essential skill to have, and you can easily incorporate it into your student’s vocational training.

For the activity, you can take your students out on a field day. Print maps of the neighborhood you’re in, mark where you’re standing and where you’re going, and hand them out to your students.

Then, encourage your students to go to the marked place by reading the map. Of course, they won’t get it right the first time. However, with your help, they can ace it before they’re employed.

Sending Mail

Nowadays, all jobs use mail to communicate important news, be it the acceptance of the job, structural changes to the company, or others. Sometimes, autistic people might be asked to send emails in response to their employers, which is an important skill to learn.

As part of your vocational training program, you can teach your students how to send professional emails with the appropriate response. You can act as their employer and send them emails, then wait for their responses.

Sorting Items

Many hands-on jobs include sorting items according to sensory processing, like folding clothes, arranging stationery, and more. Luckily, training your students to sort items is an easy activity you can attempt quickly with minimal materials.

All you have to do is provide items that are widely available in your home or workplace, like pens, pencils, and erasers. Then, put all of them in a large box and shake it so that the items mix together.

Give your students smaller boxes and tell them to sort the items separately, then leave them for a few minutes until they attempt it.

Addressing Envelopes

The last vocational activity I’ll discuss is envelope addressing. Although snail mail took a huge step back because of the rise of emails, it’s still used by many employers in various fields. 

Ideally, you should train your autistic students to address and send envelopes to different people. This way, if they work in a place that works by snail mail, they won’t face a communication issue.

For this activity, hand out formatted envelopes to your students, and encourage them to write the delivery address and the return address, then add the stamp.

Vocational Activities for Autistic Students

To Wrap Up

Vocational activities prepare autistic students for joining the workforce, and they can be easy to organize. All you have to do is check the above list, choose the activity that appeals to you and your students’ needs the most, and get to work!

Additional Vocational Skills Resources you will Love

Vocational Goals: A Step-by-Step Guide