5 Things to Know About Autism & Employment

By raluca.olariu@…, 30 June, 2023
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People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often face multiple employment challenges. From difficulties in finding regular, paid employment to the need for specialized training and support when they do find work, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding this topic.

In this article, we look at five key issues affecting those on the spectrum:

  1. The lack of awareness around autism
  2. Employment rates among adults with ASD
  3. Employer attitudes towards hiring someone with an autistic diagnosis
  4. Training needs
  5. Job satisfaction

5 Things to Know About Autism and Employment

1. There is a considerable lack of awareness when it comes to autism. Many people don't know or have wrong beliefs about what living with autism implies, and believe intellectual disabilities are the main symptom of autism. This means that many employers have no idea what their employees will be like or how best to accommodate them. In fact, only one-third of companies surveyed by the CDC said they had any kind of policy regarding accommodations for individuals who may require special assistance due to disabilities.

2. People with autism spectrum disorder make up approximately 2% of the workforce. In a world where more than half of autistic adults are unemployed, it can be extremely difficult for these individuals to live independently. Even after getting hired, people on the spectrum often face challenging situations at work as most workplaces are not designed with autism in mind. According to research conducted by the National Autistic Society, less than 10% of businesses offer reasonable accommodation options for workers with autism. This can make it hard for individuals on the spectrum to keep their jobs.

3. According to a survey from the American Association of University Professors, nearly 80% of respondents thought that working alongside someone with autism would cause problems for other staff members. The main causes of potential issues were related to a lack of social skills and the prevalence of intellectual disabilities in people with ASD.

Some employers also think that having a person with autism spectrum disorder on board could lead to higher costs. However, studies show that providing appropriate workplace support actually leads to lower turnover and increased productivity.

Most employers say they want to hire qualified candidates but struggle to identify suitable applicants. A study published in 2014 found that over 50% of employers were unable to provide evidence of whether they knew anything about autism before making a decision to interview someone.

4. When it comes to training needs, employers tend to focus on skills such as communication and social interaction rather than specific areas related to autism. The majority of employers believe that people with autism should receive some form of formal education prior to being employed. But according to the same report, just 6% of employers offered job shadowing programs specifically aimed at helping people learn new skills.

5. Finally, while most people with autism enjoy their jobs, others feel isolated and unsupported. The general lack of awareness regarding adult autism makes it hard for these individuals to feel included and thrive in a supportive environment. In addition, there's little information available about employment opportunities for those with autism once they reach adulthood. Most organizations do not even track data on this population. As a result, it becomes increasingly difficult for young adults with autism to find meaningful careers.

Discover 5 Great Career Paths for Adults with Autism

What Are the Benefits of Neurodiversity at Work?

Creating a diverse workplace yields benefits for both neurotypicals and employees on the spectrum.

Neurotypical employees benefit because they get to interact with different types of personalities every day. They gain valuable experience through exposure to various ways of thinking and behaving. And when they encounter challenges, they're able to draw upon all of their knowledge and resources to solve problems effectively.

Employees with autism spectrum disorder benefit too. By interacting with coworkers who share similar interests and experiences, they develop friendships and build confidence. These relationships help them cope better during stressful times and improve their overall well-being.

Hiring people with autism can also provide business benefits. These employees are often trustworthy, reliable, detail-oriented, and have an impressive ability to memorize things. Being an inclusive company can drive higher employee engagement rates and boost confidence in a supportive, accessible brand culture.

How to Make Recruitment Processes More Accessible

Thinking from the perspective of neurodiverse candidates is essential to make the recruitment process more accessible for the autism community. Here are five ways you can help:

1. Provide clear instructions.

People with autism are detail-oriented so, providing as much information as you can, will help them.

It’s important to communicate clearly so that everyone understands exactly what your company expects from potential hires. For example, if you ask an applicant to complete a personality test, explain why you need it and give examples of questions that might appear on the assessment. If possible, include sample answers so that candidates know what to expect when taking the test.

2. Offer flexible hours.

Many autistic employees prefer part-time or full-time positions because they have trouble managing multiple tasks simultaneously. They may be able to manage one task well enough to get through the day, but then become overwhelmed when asked to perform two or three different ones. Offering flexible hours helps accommodate this preference.

3. Include accommodations.

Providing accommodations during interviews and testing allows people with autism to succeed. It doesn't mean that every candidate has special needs; however, many people with autism experience challenges in certain situations. Accommodations allow people who don't meet typical expectations to still participate fully in the hiring process. Examples include allowing extra time to answer questions, using visual aids like diagrams or pictures instead of text, asking follow-up questions after each response, and giving feedback throughout the application process.

4. Offer as many details as possible about the work environment.

As people with ASD have difficulties in processing sensory information, it's essential to be upfront about the work environment. This includes describing how often meetings take place, whether coworkers interact socially outside of business hours, or what's the general concept of the workplace (open-concept, cubicle farm, etc.).

5. Be open to suggestions.

If someone with autism suggests something that could improve the interview or workplace culture, consider implementing it. People with autism tend to notice small changes and appreciate consistency. So, by listening carefully to any ideas they offer, you'll gain valuable insight into how to make the recruitment process more accessible.

Autism Employment Means Innovation

The world of employment for those living with autism spectrum disorders is changing rapidly. The number of companies offering job opportunities continues to grow, while new programs designed specifically for individuals with autism continue to emerge.

As these trends continue, employers should look beyond traditional methods of recruiting and seek out innovative solutions that benefit both their businesses and their employees.

Fostering a working culture of diversity can help create workplaces where all members feel valued and included, and people with disabilities benefit from a supportive environment. By creating inclusive environments, organizations are better equipped to attract top talent and retain current staff. In addition, diverse teams foster innovation and creativity, which ultimately leads to increased productivity and profitability.

Photo credit: Unsplash.