There are 5.4 million adults on the autism spectrum in the U.S. today. For these people, a job demonstrates more than self-sufficiency. A job promotes self-worth and achieving one’s full potential; two of Maslow’s needs often overlooked.
Up until fairly recently, research and treatment for autism spectrum disorder focused on infants and children. However, with more focus on integrating adults with disabilities in the workforce, there is finally some action.
Training for autistic adults to enter the workforce and maintain employment is a reasonable accommodation for many jobs. Schools, therapists, and employers work together to support desirable behaviors in autistic adults.
Americans With Disabilities Act and Autistic Adults
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) is a broad law that ensures people with disabilities have equal access to and do not face discrimination in
- Government service
- Public transportation
- Facilities that are open to the public, even if privately owned and operated (for example, grocery stores, theaters, gyms or offices)
- Communication service
These protections apply adults with autism, whether or not they call themselves disabled. However, if an adult requests a reasonable accommodation for their disability, a business should be prepared to make one.
For example, many autistic adults have trouble with showing the correct facial emotion. A reasonable accommodation might include a mirror in the workspace so an individual may check his or her expression.
Hiring Adults With Autism
Many organizations actively seek employees who think differently as part of their inclusion and diversity programs. Well-planned recruitment, onboarding, and training build success.
Start with inclusive language in job descriptions. Describe the wanted behaviors and key performance indicators in concrete language. Think about your interview process and consider where and when it takes place.
Does it reflect the physical setup of the job? Does your interview process reflect the social demands in your workplace? If the job requires self-directed work alone in an office, is it in the candidate’s best interest to conduct rapid-fire group interviews in the cafeteria?
Training for Autistic Adults
Onboarding and training for autistic adults do not necessarily look any different than onboarding and training for neurotypical new hires. Many people with autism arrive with advanced educations and many hours of ABA therapy for autism completed.
Once on the job, these work-ready adults might need little or no accommodation. A behavioral analyst might accompany a worker to break down unfamiliar actions into concrete steps, but this step may be unnecessary.
More likely, other employees need education and training to understand
- Anxiety due to unfamiliar social situations
- Executive function difficulties
- Sensory overload
- Concrete feedback loops
Managers and co-workers find inclusion less challenging when given the tools to help a co-worker.
Working Together for Inclusion
Tapping into an underutilized pool of talent, like adults with autism comes with great rewards. Employers benefit from talent diversity and workers with autism gain pride in their accomplishments.
Clear job descriptions and careful recruitment bring the best candidates. Training for autistic adults and neurotypical co-workers leads to success on the job.
Are you interested in more articles at the intersection of health and human resources? Check out some of our other articles!