When you think of “autism,” your mind may stereotype what an autistic person may look or act like. You may jump to the conclusion that all autistic people are completely disabled and unemployable, or if they are employed, are a burden and a disruptive workplace presence. Alternatively, others will regard autistic people as savants or robots.
So many myths and misunderstandings surround Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), commonly referred to as “autism.” This complex sensory processing disorder affects around one to two percent of people in the U.S. and most people think that all autistic people fit into one or two molds. However, autistic people are as diverse and unique as the rest of America.
Spectrum Careers, a movement that’s gaining noticeable attention within manufacturing companies, believes that people with autism can excel in a wide range of jobs. Driving its mission of employing autistic individuals in meaningful work through a focus on finding jobs that align with skills, Hire Dynamics, along with other organizations like the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), Autism Now, and even Sesame Street are working to understand, accept and employ this underutilized talent pool.
While every autistic person is different, many will excel in visual thinking and pattern recognition. This includes professions who deal in computer science, accounting, engineering, library science, graphic drafting, auto mechanics, appliance repair, handcrafts, lab techs, fact-checkers or copy editor, inventory controller, and data entry. Autistic people can also be intensely passionate about their chosen interests and hobbies, so working in a nonprofit space that includes those interests can be another career avenue.
A leading autistic figure is Dr. Temple Grandin who, despite speech delays and bullying in school, earned her doctorate in animal science and is a world-renowned expert on humane agricultural practices. Dr. Grandin recommends focusing on an autistic person’s strengths noting, “Parents get so worried about the deficits that they don’t build up the strengths, but those skills could turn into a job.” Autistic people and their current or potential employers should consider a more flexible approach of working with “differently abled” individuals.
If you are an employer that wants to hire adults with autism, there are several considerations that can be made. First, anticipate and honor employee requests for accommodation (find an in-depth explanation at the Job Accommodation Network). Second, try to relocate autistic workers to quieter areas of the office. Third, make sure your jobs are clearly defined with explicit expectations, goals, deadlines, and endpoints. Fourth, add autism to your corporate diversity and sensitivity training programs. Finally, provide additional training, resources, and coaching for your autistic workforce.
Hire Dynamics recognizes that the current labor market is tight. There will be an increasing skills gap and employee shortage in the future. We believe that people of all abilities can find meaningful work by pairing the right talent with the right clients. Together, our internal team of job coaches, career specialists, and account managers can connect talent with supportive clients interested in employing the best candidates regardless of labels. “Great jobs for great people” isn’t just our slogan; it’s our mission.