Yesterday I attended training with some ladies who are doing some amazing things for childhood autism is the southwest Missouri area and beyond. There was a lot of information I already knew, but I learned several valuable things, including the fact that fifty-thousand people with Aspergers, or high functioning autistics, turn eighteen each year in the United States. That’s an additional fifty-thousand autistic adults entering the workforce each year.
Now, not all of that fifty-thousand will be able to enter the workforce due to where they fall on the spectrum, but the number is still staggering and scary. Some will enter college while some will take jobs and the sad thing is that the vast majority of those employers have no clue how to integrate autistic adults into the workplace,
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to provide, “Reasonable accommodations” for the disabled, which includes those with autism, but as autism is a hidden disease and because most of us aren’t comfortable sharing our situation with employers, we end up stuck in jobs that we truly can’t do, handle or tolerate.
I know this because I’m old enough that there was no diagnosis of Aspergers until ten years after I graduated high school and I was forty-six when I was diagnosed. That means I never really had the opportunity to ask for reasonable accommodations, I just got called Forrest (as in Gump) and made fun of by employers because I was different. This generation has advantages my generation and earlier generations never had, but employers are still mainly clueless on how to absorb aspies into the workforce.
With the end of the Silent Generation (1925-1945) and the early Baby Boomers (1946-1964) retiring in large numbers, that means there are incredible opportunities for autistic adults to be employed in great, high paying jobs, but only if advocates such as myself and others can get into the business community and teach them about reasonable accommodations and the benefits of hiring autistic adults as part of their team.
“What benefits?” You may ask. Sixty to Sixty-five percent of autistic adults, and all high functioning autistic adults have average or above average intelligence, yet according to several reports, as many as eighty-five percent of us are unemployed. A big reason for that is the difficulty we have with social situations, which makes it difficult to make it through a typical hiring process.
We think differently than non-autistics, also called Neuro Typicals or NT’s and that’s a good thing. We think outside the box and let’s be honest, what company wouldn’t like to have a few out of the box thinkers on their payroll? It’s good to have people who are wired a little bit differently on your team, and hiring an autistic adult, is NOT charity, it’s a benefit to your company. To be clear, thinking like an NT is NOT a bad thing and I don’t mean to imply that in any way. Asperger’s isn’t a “better” way of thinking, just different.
Soon I’ll do a post on reasonable accommodations, but here are a few things for companies to consider when hiring an autistic adult.
- We’re big on structure, so giving us advance notice of meetings, topics to be discussed and especially advance notice of when we may have to speak at that meeting will help us tremendously.
- As our brains sometimes race at a hundred miles an hour, allowing us to give written responses instead of verbal responses makes it easier for us to get thoughts down clearly as we can edit and rearrange as needed.
- Divide large assignments into smaller pieces or give us a checklist to work off of.
I hope you found this helpful and insightful. If you’re an adult struggling to find your place in the workforce, please share your stories and if you’re an employer who wants to learn more about how to make your company ADA compliant, use the contact form and I’ll be happy to talk to you and even come talk to your company about including those with hidden disabilities.
Before I go, I belong to a closed Facebook group, Aspergers Life Support, run by some terrific people. There’s a link on the right or you can click on the words in red. If you have Aspergers, I definitely suggest asking to join the group. They’re great people and have helped me on many occasions.
I want to thank Dr. Linda Barboa, Patricia Brand, Angie Perryman, Shelli Allen, Jan Luck, and anyone else I may have forgotten for the training session yesterday. I look forward to working with you in the future to bring knowledge about and change to the autistic community as a whole and not just in our area. Dr. Barboa has written a number of books on the subject and here is a link to her Amazon page.
Have a great week and keep checking back for more good stuff!