While unemployment rates are improving across the US, for people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), finding and keeping a job can still be an elusive pursuit. Even though many people on the autistic spectrum have the necessary technical skills to complete a job’s duties as well as or better than their neurotypical peers, landing a job that lends financial security and personal fulfillment can be much more difficult.
The transition from school to employment is exceptionally difficult for autistic people. Preparing for a career in a specific field while still in high school or even earlier, can make that transition a little easier and will also allow them to build their skills and experiences with a focus that will give them an advantage over other candidates. There are some exciting new resources available to help people on the spectrum prepare for and obtain employment. The International Center for Autism Research and Education, also known as ICare4Autism helps autistic adults ages 18 and up find the vocational and employment training services they need from semi-skilled to high-functioning individuals. To learn more about ICare4Autism’s Global Autism Workforce Initiative, visit:http://www.icare4autism.org/global-autism-center/comprehensive-autism-workforce-development-initiative/
For many autistic adults, the hardest part of any job can be the social aspect. Because the subtleties of social interactions and political positioning associated with most corporate careers can be lost on people with ASD, and adapting to changing situations and requirements can be extremely difficult for them, we’ve researched the best jobs and work environments for autistic people.
Of course, talents, skills, interests, and level of functionality are as individual as people with ASD, and should be weighed and balanced on an individual basis before choosing a career path. These are simply broad recommendations based on the most common characteristics associated with the autism spectrum.
Computer Coding and Software Testing: For the autistic individual who has an uncanny eye for pattern and detail, this is definitely an avenue worth pursuing. Several software companies now give preference to candidates with autism because they can be much better at these jobs than people whose brains lose focus or can overlook tiny syntax errors that translate into software bugs. These jobs also have limited social interaction and exposure to like-minded people.
Scientific Research: They call it the scientific method for a reason – it’s methodical. High functioning autistic people often thrive on meticulous, repetitive activities that require objectivity and extreme focus. There are some aspects that some people with ASD may find difficult, like obtaining funding and managing staff, but lab work itself can be ideal.
Working With Animals: Many autistic people have difficulty interacting with other people, but have a talent for relating to animals. Therapy dogs and cats (yes, therapy cats!) are becoming more and more common for autistic people because the animals have a soothing affect. Autistic people can thrive in work environments that have more interaction with animals than people, such as veterinary clinics and farms.
Stocking Shelves: Whether in a warehouse, library, or retail environment, inventory is (usually) filed systematically. There’s not a lot of social interaction required and very little chance of unexpected obstacles to pop up. Once a person with autism understands the established shelving system, they can thrive in a position like this where their day can be very structured and they are free to go about the systematic execution of their tasks.
Mechanics: Autistic people with good fine motor skills often excel with mechanical maintenance jobs. Whether motorcycles, cars, computer hardware, or heavy machinery, the ability to find the one loose wire or worn sprocket in a massively complicated schematic can be right up the autistic alley. This is also a field where social skills and graces are not a huge priority. Many high functioning autistics are used to their friends and family asking them to fix things, so they might as well get paid for it. There are excellent entrepreneurial prospects here too.
Data Entry: In the age of big data and digital marketing, data entry is a huge part of most marketing and corporate companies. Because it is repetitive, requires attention to detail, a systematic approach, non-social, and can often be completed via telecommuting, this can be a great way for people on the autism spectrum to earn a paycheck.
Many people who have autism spectrum disorders have amazing artistic abilities or exceptional math skills. Obviously they should pursue careers that allow them to best apply their talents. For all people, though – autistic or not, the work environment, interpersonal communication, and structure should be considered just as important as the required technical skills and salary.