Thursday, 6 March 2014

Increasing employment opportunities for adults with Autism

A recent study by ASPECT, a not-for-profit organisation that support stakeholders and individuals with Autism, found that despite the Australian national employment rate being 95%, just 54%  of the adults with AD and HFA in this study (excluding those still in full-time education) had a paid job at the time of completing the survey. 

As a nation (and other nations) must work together to improve the employment rate of those with Autism. As the above statistic shows although some people born with autism go on to achieve great things, the majority of them are not given the opportunity to fulfill their potential.

People with autism may not understand the unwritten social rules that others usually pick up without
thinking. For example, they may stand too close to another person or start an inappropriate subject of conversation, appear insensitive, as they have not recognised how someone else is feeling, often struggle understanding irony and sarcasm, and often offend as they are often very blunt with their comments. Because of this it is often hard for us to be successfully through the hiring stage and holding onto a job for the long term.

Although there are some  issues that may arise because of the difficulties people with autism face, the benefit to employ them outweighs the issues. Some things that are being done to help people with autism gain meaningful employment include the US plan requiring all federal employees to have at-least 7% of their workplace positions be occupied by people with a disability. (1) An organisation called Specialisterne (2) works to enable one million jobs for people with autism and similar challenges through social entrepreneurship, corporate sector engagement and a global change in mind-set. 

The low employment rate of people with Autism isn’t because they don’t have the skills, the commitment, or the drive, but because many employers just don’t understand the benefits of employing someone with autism.

Employers need to know that it makes good business sense to employ people who are reliable, punctual and loyal; people who have good attention to detail and concentration levels; people who have excellent problem solving skills and can be analytical, resourceful and creative. What good employer wouldn’t want an employee with those skills?

It is also a disadvantage for employers, who are missing out on a large national resource of loyal and hard working staff. So the economy is also missing out.Employers must first realise what they are missing out on, then equip themselves to capitalise on it.
An effective way of assisting people with Autism in the realm of employment is to provide support searching for a job, applying and selection process and then when a job is found providing on the job support. The first stage of support would include career counseling to help the adult decide which field of employment they would like to get into and organise relevant further training if required. If the adult is already suitably qualified it may be necessary to help develop confidence, help with writing resumes, role-playing interviews, sourcing internships, placements and work experience among other things. 
Whether to disclose your diagnosis is a tough decision even in today's society as many people's opinions of people with a disability is negative. Much work needs to be done to improve the image of autistic's and to promote the positive aspects of autism. If you choose to disclose to a potential employer and get invited to an interview your employment consultant should identify and organise reasonable adjustments for both the interview and if you are successful the workplace. 
 When the applicant is successful it is essential for the employment consultant and the employer to work together. (3) The type and level of support required will depend on the person's individual needs, but could include:   
  •  appointing a colleague to act as a mentor to the employee with autism,
    through helping them with any issues that arise and advocating on their behalf
    if necessary
  •   arranging general and specific autism awareness training for staff who work with the employee(s) with autism
 Link 3 at the end of this post gives more information about employing people with autism including advice to help managers communicate effectively and suggested adjustments to make at the interview.
As you can see we are starting to make some progress and there are some great programs out there but there is still alot to be done. I am currently seeking comment from anyone who has autism/asperger's to let me know what works, what doesn't and what you found the most difficult in obtaining employment and also what your employer has done well and what could be done better. I am also interested in hearing stories from parents, employers and staff at recruitment agencies and employment consultancies. Please leave a comment below and please enjoy the rest of your week :)


  1. As an autistic American with a bachelor's degree, I've become increasingly disillusioned with my prospects of finding full time work while pursuing my dream career of being a filmmaker. I live in Detroit, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, and I have been working for about 6 months out of the year for the past 3-4 years for a company that scores standardized tests. I really feel that's not enough for me.

    1. I have talked to a (NT) friend who I currently work with and he said the same as you have said in regards to it being really tough economically over in the US. I hope you are able to find something soon that will fully utilise your skills and talents Charles. All the best!

  2. Im an aspie and ive never held a job for more than 3 months except once and that was at a job that accepts anyone cuz they hired all the time so they didnt really care who got through. 4 weeks at the shortest Ive always taken forever to find a job even cuz no one calls me back and i always screw up the interview somehow but i dont know how. :/ i hope this does help out autism in this area.
    i feel really awful and useless and hate myself everyday of my life for not having a job.

    1. It sounds like things are really tough for you in regards to employment. I volunteered a lot when I was un-employed, even if it doesn't directly get you a job it may help to make you feel valued because you are doing valued work in the community.