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Things to Know About Autism and Employment

It can be difficult and challenging for people with autism to find regular work. Fortunately, there is an increasing number of employers who are hiring people with disabilities including autism. This is great news! Even so, people with autism who are looking for work must be ready to jump through many hoops, evaluations, and tests to be qualified for the job.

Here are some transitions facts to know.

Most autistic adults are unemployed or underemployed. Young adults with autism have a lower employment rate and a higher rate of complete social isolation than people with other disabilities (A.J. Drexel Autism Institute). This report continues by saying two-thirds of autistic young people had neither a job nor educational plans during the first two years after high school and this trend continued into their early 20s.

There are reasons why this has happened. Some of the reasons include 1 – expectations for disabled adults are low, 2 – in order to get jobs autistic people must compete for positions which may be difficult based on their autistic disabilities, such as social communication and interaction, and 3 – most workplace programs for disabled adults do not include the challenges of autism.

School services end for autistic individuals at age 22. As a result, the moment a disabled person turns 22 years old they are no longer covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Students under the age of 22 are required to have a free and appropriate education, but adult services are not entitlements. In practice, however, anyone with a significant disability will qualify for at least some adult services. Making sure this happens, it is up to the parent/guardian to know how the transition works in your community, region and state. What are your options and how do you qualify for these services? What hoops need to be jumped through?

Transitions for ASD adults are in the early stages. Until recently, adults with autism were rarely considered.  Those individuals with low functioning autism were likely to be diagnosed, but not all. Schools set up programs for severely disabled students, training them in life skills and other basic work skills. It was assumed that these individuals would be employed in part time jobs based on the skills taught.

As the population of autistic adults grows resources and programs are becoming more available based on the needs of individuals. While still challenging, there are more options to be explored. Be proactive.

Adult services vary by location. While the IDEA law is federally mandated, adult services to individuals with disabilities are not. Most adult programs and services are paid for and managed by the state with some programs available only at a local level. Depending on the state they may be more generous with their funding. According to a survey conducted by Autism Speaks, The Metropolitan areas of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Boston are reportedly the best places to live for people with autism. The survey respondents said that they were very happy with these areas because of the number of services and programs provided, including educational service and flexible employer policies.

Job options depend on abilities and challenges. One of the hardest challenges a person with autism faces is that their abilities may not be enough to get or keep a job. An example, an ASD adult may be a fantastic mathematician, but if they can’t “generalize” or summarize, they may lose their job. Other challenging issues for ASD adults may include, social anxiety, severe sensory challenges, inflexibility, difficulty with handling criticism, and unwillingness to share or collaborate.

Understanding strengths and challenges of an ASD individual are important to the transition and job search process. By identifying these areas and providing proper training with support, the right job match will be easier.

Good news. There are more job opportunities than ever before. Many corporations and small businesses have begun to see the value of hiring autistic employees and are providing the training necessary. Workplace Inclusion Now (WIN) is bringing employers, individuals, and communities together to increase employment opportunities for autistic individuals.  There are plenty of opportunities available all year round!

What this model wants to accomplish:

  • Address disparities and obstacles in employment policies,
  • Equip employers to hire and retain autistic workers, and
  • Create workplace environments where autistic and other intellectual and/or developmental differences can be successful and supported.

Here is how the model works:

  1. “We equip job seekers, students and new employees with autism, intellectual and/or developmental differences (I/DD) with tools and resources to empower them in employment and leadership opportunities.
  2. We activate employers to create welcoming workplaces by hiring people with autism, intellectual and/or developmental differences, and provide the resources and tools to create a welcoming culture in which all employees can thrive.
  3. We engage communities to raise awareness and advocate for inclusion and equity for people with autism or other differences” (https://www.autismspeaks.org/workplace-inclusion-now)

The key components of WIN:

  • Accessible to an inclusive digital job-sourcing platform will connect job seekers and employers to candidates outside of traditional talent pools.
  • Participating employers can offer a digital training series to promote a welcoming workplace culture that helps autistic employees
  • Pathways events, a series of workshops and leadership conferences, to provide communities with information and insights.

Workplace Inclusion Now is part of Autism Speaks commitment to an inclusion campaign with Special Olympics, Best Buddies and the Entertainment Industry Foundation, to create 1 million pathways to employment and leadership opportunities by 2025.

It’s important to prepare for success. While it is great to imagine having a job and keeping it for a lifetime, it’s rare to see the kind of success without a great deal of preparation and support. Inclusive pays off and it is good to know that the times they are a changing (Bob Dylan).

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