Autism and Employment: Overcoming Challenges and Finding Success | Guide

Finding meaningful employment can be challenging for anyone, but for autistic adults, the job search process comes with extra hurdles. With the right preparation and support, autistic people can thrive in the workplace. This guide covers key facts about autism and employment, along with tips for identifying your strengths, finding autism-friendly employers, securing accommodations, and succeeding in your new job.

Autism and Employment
Autism and Employment

Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by difficulties with social communication and interaction, as well as restricted interests and repetitive behaviors. The severity of symptoms can range from mild to severe:

Levels of Support Needed

  • Level 1 ASD: Requires some support
  • Level 2 ASD: Requires substantial support
  • Level 3 ASD: Requires very substantial support

While autism affects each person differently, many autistic adults are able to work successfully, especially with appropriate accommodations and support in place.

Statistics on Autistic Adults and Employment

Unfortunately, autistic adults continue to face disproportionately high unemployment and underemployment rates:

  • It’s estimated that only around 50% of autistic adults are employed.
  • Of those who are employed, many only have part-time jobs or are in positions below their qualifications.

There are several key factors behind these concerning statistics:

Low Expectations

  • Schools and families often do not expect autistic individuals to have successful careers, lowering their confidence.

Difficulty Navigating Job Search

  • Social communication challenges make interviews and workplace interactions difficult.
  • Sensory sensitivities may be hard to accommodate in many workplace environments.

Lack of Tailored Support Programs

  • Many support programs are aimed at intellectual or physical disabilities, not autism.
  • Job training often focuses on basic skills rather than developing strengths.

Loss of School Services After Age 22

  • Special education services end when autistic individuals turn 22.
  • Accessing adult disability services can be challenging.

Inconsistent Quality of Adult Services

  • Availability of adult services depends on state and local agencies.
  • Many agencies lack expertise in supporting autistic adults.

Key Steps for Your Job Search

While statistics paint a concerning picture, the employment outlook for autistic individuals continues to improve as workplace inclusion gains traction. With proper planning and support, you can successfully navigate the job search process.

Understand Your Strengths and Challenges

  • Identify your talents, skills, interests and ideal work environment.
  • Recognize potential obstacles such as social anxiety, inflexibility or sensory sensitivities.
  • Use aptitude tests and career counseling to find your best career path.

Research Local Disability Services

  • Contact your state or local autism society chapter.
  • Look into Vocational Rehabilitation services in your area.
  • Ask schools and support programs about available job training.

Explore Autism-Friendly Employers

  • Large corporations like SAP, JP Morgan and Microsoft actively recruit autistic employees.
  • Small businesses like Rising Tide Car Wash build their model around autistic talent.

Prepare Thoroughly for Interviews

  • Practice common interview questions and responses.
  • Rehearse discussing your strengths and accommodation needs.
  • Request accommodations like a quiet room without fluorescent lights.

Use Available Supports and Resources

  • Ask about job coaching, mentorship programs and ongoing training.
  • Connect with autistic self-advocacy groups.
  • Learn from reputable autism organizations like Autism Speaks.

Requesting Workplace Accommodations

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employees with disabilities have the right to request reasonable accommodations that allow them to perform essential job functions. Some accommodations autistic employees may benefit from include:

  • Written instructions for tasks instead of verbal instructions
  • Noise-cancelling headphones to minimize auditory distractions
  • Adjustable lighting to prevent visual overstimulation
  • Flexible or remote work options
  • Regular quiet break time in a low-stimulation room

Accommodations are unique to each individual. Being proactive in asking for accommodations makes you more likely to get them.

Achieving Success in Your New Job

Starting a new job comes with challenges for everyone. Here are some tips to help you thrive and succeed as an autistic employee:

  • Check in regularly with supervisors to track your performance. Ask for feedback.
  • Identify a workplace mentor who can give guidance and support.
  • Arrange regular meetings with job coaches or counselors.
  • Join workplace autism support groups or self-advocacy groups.
  • Educate your coworkers about autism to build understanding.
  • Practice stress management and self-care techniques to avoid burnout.
  • Speak up right away if you are struggling to avoid setbacks.

The Future Looks Bright for Neurodiversity at Work

With proper planning and support, autistic adults can excel in the workplace. As more employers recognize the value of neurodiversity, opportunities continue to grow. Patience and perseverance are key – you can achieve your employment goals.

To get started with world-class ABA therapy in Maryland that will help your child thrive, call Jade ABA Therapy today at (410) 616-0901 or visit www.jadeaba.org. Our outstanding therapists are committed to helping each child reach their full potential.

References:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD): Diagnostic criteria. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/hcp-dsm.html
  2. Ohl, A., Grice Sheff, M., Small, S., Nguyen, J., Paskor, K., & Zanjirian, A. (2017). Predictors of employment status among adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Work, 56(2), 345-355. https://doi.org/10.3233/wor-172492
  3. Organization for Autism Research. A guide for transition to adulthood. https://researchautism.org/resources/a-guide-to-transition-to-adulthood/
  4. Autism Society. Preparing to experience college living. https://www.autism-society.org/living-with-autism/autism-through-the-lifespan/adulthood/preparing-to-experience-college-living/
  5. Ning, A., Daniels, J., Schwartz, J., et al. (2019). Identification and quantification of gaps in access to autism resources in the United States: an infodemiological study. J Med Internet Res, 21(7), e13094. https://doi.org/10.2196/13094
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