Welcome to day ten in the A to Z Challenge on autism. Today’s post is on employment and jobs for autistic people. I personally do not have a paid job, but many autistic people, even those with co-existing intellectual disabilities, can be successfully employed. They do need to choose jobs that utilize their strengths and their employer needs to be willing to accommodate them.
Already in 1999, Temple Grandin wrote an excellent article on choosing the right job for someone with autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. She explains that autistic and Asperger’s people usually have very poor working memory and cannot multitask. While some people are visual thinkers, like herself, some autistic people are more verbal thinkers, being good at math and/or memorizing facts. In the tables attached to the article, Grandin lists jobs that are bad for autistic people, jobs that are good for visually-thinking autistic people, jobs that are good for verbal thinkers with autism, and jobs that are good for non-verbal or intellectually disabled autistics.
Of course, being able to perform certain tasks does not guarantee being able to get a jbo. In today’s society, increasing demands are placed on social skills and flexibility, precisely the skills which autistics invariably have difficulty with. Many countries, including the Netherlands and the United States, have laws prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of disability. However, a person must prove that they are otherwise qualified for the job and that they are being discriminated against based on their disability.
How many people with autism are employed? This is not precisely known. It is however thought that fewer autistic people are employed than people in most other disability groups. For example, a study cited here says that only 32.5% of young adults with autism spectrum disorders worked for pay. The National Autistic Society in the UK presents an even grimmer statistic: according to them, only 15% of autistic people are employed full-time. Given that the benefits system in the UK is quite strict on people with mental disabilities (and it’s probably worse in the U.S.), 51% of autistic people have spent time without employment or benefits.