Despite the autistic spectrum being so diverse, it seems one thing that most of us have in common, is how autism affects our job opportunities (or lack of). That’s why, in today’s post, I wanted to look at where we are, where we are going and what we can do to get there, regarding autism and employment; with the aim of creating a better understanding of how autism can be embraced in the workplace.
The Current State of Autism and Employment:
There are many shocking statistics which come from researching the disability employment gap in the UK, such as how 4 in 10 people with autism have never had a job, or how there are only 32% of autistic people currently in paid employment (16% of which only hold a part-time position). In comparison, 81% of all non-disabled UK adults are currently employed.
This is something which hasn’t gone unnoticed and in response there are many schemes which the government is currently putting in place, in an attempt to correct this: These plans can be found in a super-fun, not dull-at-all document (which I will link here), but for those who don’t want their cause of death to read: ‘boredom’, let me give you a quick outline of these schemes:
- Introducing a new work and health programme
- Enhancing in-employment disability support
- Investing in support for specific conditions, like autism
- Cutting disability unemployment benefits (hmmm, I’m not too sure about this, but the others seemed pretty good)
All things considered, these ‘improvements’ should help to reduce the number of people with autism who are unemployed. However, if we really want to speed up this process, people with autism will also have to take matters into our own hands.
How can People with Autism Improve Their Job Opportunities?
In 2016, researchers found that the main worry employers who are hiring autistic staff have, isn’t that a person with autism will do anything wrong, but that the employer themselves won’t be able to provide the correct support for their employee.
This was the answer 60% of respondents gave, and though the previously mentioned government schemes should aim to reduce this number, there is one simply trick that the autistic community can do to speed up this process: Telling employers what support we need.
By now, most employers/people understand the common difficulties people with autism face, but most still don’t know how to help. Most employers won’t know that some of us with sensory issues can get over them by just using headphones, or that for those of us who are bound by routine, can escape it for a day, IF we are given notice and preparation, for what exactly will be happening during the alteration.
You could say that it is the employer’s job to know this, however, the spectrum is so big that it makes so much more sense to just tell employers up front what they need to do. Chances are they will appreciate you for helping them, and as a result you may even be given a raise, a company car or, as is usually the case for me, a handshake and another meeting down the line where I have to reexplain what I originally said (as they have forgotten only days later – oh the joys of employment).
How can People with Autism get a Job in the first place?
There are great articles all around the internet which discuss how people with autism can find a job. however, when discussing autism and employment, I believe few posts concentrate on those on the spectrum who could be considered less independent.
These are the autists who are non-verbal, suffer severe sensory issues and amongst the many other difficulties they are faced with, are often inaccuracy labelled as ‘low functioning’.
There are many, MANY reasons why this shouldn’t be the case (which hopefully one day I will return to), but for now let’s consider the main one: there is no such thing as ‘low functioning autism’.
Autism is a can limit a person’s development, but this doesn’t make any one person useless. Most autistic people I meet have some particular skill or interest, which makes them unique. Though not all of these skills and interests may appear practical, most can be used in a productive way which offers some benefit to society.
This means that, for those on the spectrum who fit into this category, more has to be done to nurture these skills and raise awareness of their job potential.
Granted, telling someone they need to improve their attributes and then find a job suited to their credentials, is pretty much the same advice you would give anyone who is looking for a job, but surley, the fact that I don’t need to edit my tips based on their situation, proves that, just like everyone else, they should be given an equal chance?
Don’t get me wrong, I do have hope that things are getting better for people with autism looking for work. I just don’t believe that things can/will progress at the same rate for everyone, until we realise that a conversation around autism and employment must involve everyone on the spectrum (and not just who need the least support).
What do Employers Think of Autistic Staff?
Before I finish today I wanted to share some of the feedback I have found online from employers discussing their autistic staff. These reports can seem a bit generalising at times, but, they come from real people who have real positive experiences from hiring people from the spectrum:
- “Some of the most loyal, capable and dedicated employees I’ve had have been on the autism spectrum,” – Ray Coyle, CEO of Auticon’s British Department (information and communication technology consulting firm, that exclusively employs adults with autism)
- “I look at it as a win-win-win. We win because we get great innovative thinkers. They win, they start a joy-filled life full of confidence.” – John Sicard, CEO of Kinaxis (a supply chain management company)
- “People with autism have that ability, often, to see problems and errors in a way that we don’t, and enjoy doing that again and again and again.” – Garth Johnson CEO Meticulon (a software consultancy firm)
- “Many people on the spectrum think differently, so thinking out of the box isn’t merely a mental exercise, it’s how they think every day and approach problems, which is a tremendous asset, especially in a company like Microsoft,” – Dean Betz Executive Producer, Microsoft (If you don’t know who Microsoft are by now, then there is little I can say to help you)
Carry on the Conversation:
That’s it for this week, now it’s time to hear from you. What’s your experience of people with autism in employment? Do you yourself have any advice for those looking for jobs? What do you think of the new employment schemes being introduced? Let me know in the comments below.
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Thank you for reading, and I will see you next Saturday, for more thoughts from across the spectrum.