Far too many people on the autism spectrum are unable to find meaningful jobs. About 85% of people with this poorly understood disorder in the United States are either unemployed or underemployed, according to the advocacy organization Autism Speaks.
One of the many reasons that people on the spectrum are unable to land a job is because all too often people with it are looked at as lacking social, communication or creative skills. While that may be true for some, the important thing to remember is it is a spectrum—meaning there is no definitive answer as to what an autistic person should embody. What employers seem to forget is that people on the spectrum can excel in areas of visual skills, music, math and art.
As reported previously, many people on the autism spectrum have heightened attention to detail, excellent organizational skills and great memory. These are just some of the specialized skills a person with autism can possess, but they are overshadowed by the word “autism.” In schools, it is easier for an autistic person to thrive because these places have made accommodations to make the autistic feel comfortable. The same thing needs to happen in the workplace.
Among those accommodations are adjustments to lighting, location of the person’s workstation in relation to others, considerations regarding noise, and a place to settle down if anxiety starts to overtake them. Often these accommodations can benefit the entire organization.
According to the Organization for Autism Research, the five keys to successfully employing and supporting a person with autism includes:
- Getting to know your employee
- Orienting him or her with specific job duties
- Fostering a welcoming and supportive workplace
- Maximizing your company’s existing support systems
- Providing clear directions and performance feedback.
Stephen Shore, author of “Beyond the Wall: Personal Experiences with Autism and Asperger Syndrome,” once said, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” Organizations should remember that a person on the spectrum is complex and unique, and everyone deserves a chance.