Find a job with autism and you will feel like you have hit the jackpot. If you are a parent of an autistic child or if you are a young adult with autism yourself, you know that it can be terrifying to consider what will happen when you or your child leaves school.
The statistics on unemployment amongst young adults with autism can be as high as 85-90%. Typically parents who have autistic children are totally consumed with just getting through each day. They are trying their very best to give their kids the best support and care at school and/or therapy.
If they are lucky, maybe they have the opportuity to use weighted blankets at night to help them sleep better and function better as a result.
Or maybe they find weighted lap pads to use at school or during homework time are the key to improving concentration and focus.
But what happens when they leave school? Can they find a job with autism?
The prospect can be overwhelming as Dr Devon discusses. Most of the help and support resources for families with autism is there to support children. Much of these support structures finish in childhood leaving the young adults and their families stranded.
Can I even find a job with autism?
Thankfully, the world has changed tremendously in the last 10-15 years. There is more awareness and understanding of autism. There is better diagnosis and early intervention. There is improved funding and support available.
There are also social changes around increasing acceptance and reducing discrimination of all people including gender, race, sex and those with disabilities.
Making workplaces more accessible for all plus advances in technology are making it easier to communicate in the workplace with messaging and chat functions rather than having to do face to face meetings.
Even COVID-19 has recently rapidly accelerated the opportunity for many people to work from home and communicate remotely.
Are Employers Open To Hiring People With Autism?
Individuals with autism have so many strengths and employers would be wise to listen, learn and utitlise their strengths for their organsations benefit.
People with autism tend to be good at developing systems and processes, have amazing attention to detail, and excel at visual thinking.
Careers in computer programming, engineering, drafting, photography, data entry, work with animals, mechanics, assembly, animation, accounting, inventory control, and statistics, may be good fits. Many of these careers will suit non verbal autistic people as well.
About 50-70% of individuals with autism do have an intellectual disability which may make job seeking even more challenging and may limit some options but there still can be work available.
Individuals with autism tend to demonstrate traits that may make make them not as good at the social aspects of work and may prefer to avoid careers and workplaces placing a high value on social skills (e.g. marketing, sales).
Are There Any Organizations That Can Help Me Find A Job With Autism?
This article caught my eye from the Daily Telegraph on July 5th 2020. It profiled a company in Sydney, Australia that specialises in helping people find a job with autism.
It makes the valid point that our whole hiring and interview process discriminates against those with autism who may be socially awkward or struggle to pick up on social cues. It is extremely difficult and intimidating to get through an interview process (for anyone!)
Even though their job skills may be exceptional and the actual job may not require any interaction with colleage or clients.
It is bascialy impossible to manage an interview at all if you are non verbal.
If you stop and think about it for a minute- it is crazy!
Of course if you are interviewing for a sales, marketing or leadership role, you need to be able to perform eloquently in front of 3 interviewers and answer questions, interact and discuss a problem and handle objections.
However if you are hiring to be a researcher, a data analyst, a coder or work with animals, there is no need to display social skills of Jackie Kennedy or the presentation skills of Tony Robbins.
Fortuantely there is a growing awareness in the business world of the contributions individuals with autism can make in the workplace, and an effort to provide opportunities.
There are recruiting companies popping up to serve this need.
The company that helped Aiden find his job is based in Sydney Australia and is called is Xceptional.io
Aiden Soedjarwo is a non-verbal student in his final year of high school. He self-rated his chances of getting a job as “low”.
Yet- working with Xceptional, he has just scored a great job without even having an interview or meet his new boss face to face. Xceptional helps autistic people find meaningful work with companies that greatly value their skills.
Aiden’s mum Julie knew her son was highly intelligent but feared he would never find a job. At Xceptional, they realise that autistic people struggle with social situations like job interviews which really sets them back compared to others, even though they may have the best skills for the job.
The job he scored required technical data analytics. They needed someone who could solve data problems in different ways and be hard working and focused. Aiden was given a task to complete- which he did so in 12 hrs and was way ahead of the next candidate who completed it in 40 hours. He also had much better solutions and successfully got the job.
As he is non verbal, he does not speak but communicates via messaging. For this job, that works well. It's a fantastic match. The company have found the best person for the job and no formal interview was required.
Obviously Aiden is very bright. He could install Windows on a computer aged 6 and was talking to NASA about how to extract water from Mars aged 13.
There are several firms like this popping up around the world. Another company is called Daivergent who offers a similar service based in the USA.
Microsoft implemented an Autism Hiring Program in April 2015. Software corporations such as SAP, HP, and New Relic have dedicated autism hiring programs. Things are improving rapidly in this area.
How Can Parents Help Their Child Best Prepare To Find A Job With Autism?
There is some truth in allowing kids to be kids as long as possible. But along the way, it is useful to note what they are interested in and seek to explore and encourage a deeper understanding of their talents and interests.
Most parents try to expose their kids to as many different experiences as possible. Whether its art work, playing with animals, technology and so on.
What does your child love to do more than anything?
Sometimes you will need to be a dectective to work out what it might be. Other times, many autistic children develop extreme obsessions of passionate interest and only want to do that to the exclusion of everything else.
Any areas of weakness (e.g. behavioral, social) can be addressed through therapy and skill building.
One dad went so far as to set up a business for his son to work in. It is a car wash and he employs manily people with autism. He says it is fantastic as they are hard working and have an eye for detail. “We view autism as one of our key competitive advanatges"
He says a side benefit is that it also helps educates the community as they see people with autism contributing positively to society. It also provides young people with autism a place where they can interact with each other and the customers. Check it out...
What Jobs Are Likely To Be Suitable For People With Autism?
Technology has helped autistic people in so many ways with job opportunities and an improved ability to communicate. In addition, there are so many more jobs in robotics, data, software, coding, mathematics, science, research, lab work, astrophyscis and computing.
Many jobs in the new economy require intelligence, focus and ways of thinking that suit many people with autism. This could be a changing of the guard. With the rise of e-commerce, there is less and less need for retailers to interact face to face with customers and less need for the sleazy salesman.
More people can work from home and do thoughtful, focused work rather than requiring a lot of face to face interactions and verbal communication. Other possible career choices might include work with animals, pet carer, dog trainer, or vetinary science.
Journalism could also be a great career, involving researsch , compiling data and statistics in an interesting way and using their skills of looking at the world in a diferent way.
Of course like anyone else, it depends on the individuals interests and skills. But the encouraging thing is once you start to really think about it, there are actually many jobs and careers that are possible for people with autism as long as the company is open to considering them.
Typically people with autism are really good at structured tasks, following processes and thinking in new ways. As long as the companies are open to giving them a fair go, they may find they are the best employees they have!
If you do wish to find a job with autism, never give up. You have so much to offer an organization and the world. Get inspired by looking at people you know who have made huge contributions. Plus draw inspiration from famous people with autism you come across who were successful because they had different skills and talents to offer the world.
It is far to early to state that there is now equal opprtunity. But there are some green shoots for sure. Awareness and job opportunities continue to improve. If you wish to find a job with autism, there has never been a better time. Continue to develop your skills, reach out to companies to show them what you can offer and also remember to see if there are any specialist recruitment firms near you who can help.