Autism Survey indicates that the need
for job training services for those with autism
spectrum disorders (ASD) has increased
dramatically in the past 20 years
About 85 percent of people on the autism spectrum are unemployed or underemployed, meaning that they are
unable to work, unable to find work, working for marginally lower wages than
their experience should merit, or working in positions not appropriate to their
intelligence and/or ability. The survey also found:
- More than two-thirds of adults with autism are unemployed or underemployed.
- One in three adults with autism reports an unmet need for transition services
after high school.
- More than one in four adults reported needing, but not receiving, vocational training,
career counseling or supported employment.
More than 80 percent of survey responders said that finding employment opportunities was very or
somewhat difficult, and 73 percent reported that most of the difficulty fell in the
category of getting an interview. More
than 75 percent of employed ASD adults reported some type of discrimination with
underutilization of skills being the most common.
we ask John McGonigle, Ph.D., assistant professor of Psychiatry, University of
Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and director of the Center for Autism and
Developmental Disorders at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, to answer
a few autism and employment questions for us.
What are some of the ASD-related challenges to finding (and maintaining)
Individuals with ASD
have the ability, passion and desire to work; however, they continue to be
faced with many challenges that can hinder a successful job experience.
The social and communication
challenges associated with autism are significant and affect all aspects of job
seeking. For example, individuals with ASD may struggle with: creating a
resume; filling out applications; setting up an interview; understanding verbal
directives; presenting their areas of strength; answering “honestly” no matter
what the question; reading subtle social cues and tone of voice; wearing
appropriate attire; anticipating the interviewer’s questions; following up
after the interview; or, negotiating a salary and start date.
Are employers usually aware of employees’ ASD-related challenges?
A: Unfortunately, no. Due to a lack of employer awareness,
as well as some individuals’ interest to maintain privacy, a potential employee
often does not disclose his diagnosis during an interview or once he/she has
been given the job - if the individual can successfully navigate the social
nuances of an interview - for fear of discrimination and scrutiny.
But this can be problematic because employers
often cannot provide accommodations or learn how best to support individuals
with ASD if they are not aware of the social and communication differences at
An added challenge is the upcoming
DSM-5 changes in May of this year; both autism and Asperger’s will soon be
defined as ASD, meaning that employees with Asperger’s or autism will now be
diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum.
These changes will require education for employers.
Q: What can be done to improve
employment outcomes for individuals with ASD?
A: As rates of adults with ASD rise,
so does the need for understanding and aware employers who are willing to make
nontraditional accommodations such as permitting workers to wear ear buds or
headphones to drown out extraneous sound, or allowing flexible schedules or
working from home.
Successful employment outcomes require
pulling together resources for the individual and the employer that highlight
the special talents, skills, and ability of the employee with ASD and designing
a work environment with supports to ensure success.
What kind of resources exist here at home to help those with ASD find jobs?