THERE are many things about living with Autism Spectrum Disorder which are not straight forward, but for Jimmy and Sharnae Berresford, of 'Love on the Spectrum' fame, the value of meaningful employment is clear.
As well as finding each other, the 22-year-old couple, who starred in the ABC TV series which followed the dating lives of young Australians living with Autism, have found work they both enjoy.
Mr Berresford described his role as a cleaner in schools as more than just a job. "The job itself is more than just cleaning the door handles - it's working for a company putting their best foot forward in the community, through inclusion," he said. "I like my job because I'm part of something. That means something."
"I like my job because I'm part of something. That means something."Jimmy Berresford
And Ms Berresford has landed her dream job as a "check-out chick" at Woolworths.
Having ticked that box, she now has her sights set on becoming a support worker to help people with Autism and other disabilities, and advocating for people with Autism and who are Aboriginal, like her.
The couple have beaten the odds in finding employment. According to Australian Bureau of Statistics, there are 2.1 million Australians of working age with disability, just half of which are employed (47.8 per cent), compared with 80.3 per cent of people without disability. Those with jobs are also likely to have challenges that many other workers do not face. Almost one in five (18.9 per cent) of people with disability aged 15-24 years experience discrimination, and in almost half of those instances, the source of discrimination is an employer.
For Jimmy, there are other challenges he faces as an individual, which he is overcoming in the workplace.
"Sometimes I struggle to follow instructions because they can be a bit overwhelming," he told the Newcastle Herald.
"Also environmental factors like customers can be hard to deal with. But when you're looking at employing people on the spectrum or with any disability you should look away from what they struggle with and what they're good at.
"So change your expectations so you can take advantage of their strengths rather than struggling with their weaknesses."
The couple have been supported to find work by specialist recruitment agency Job Centre Australia. The company's Lower Hunter operations manager, Anthony Workman, said his team worked with candidates to build on their social skills and form friendships as they work towards meaningful employment. "It's all connected to the overall wellbeing of an individual, and we're honoured to have the opportunity to support our candidates in securing meaningful employment and embracing the workforce."