10 Things to Know About Autism and Employment

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The number of adults with autism in the United States is on the rise. The numbers have increased from 1 in 150,000 in 2012 to 1 in 59 kids according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This means that there are more individuals who cannot effectively function at work due to their autism diagnosis and employers need to take heed.

In order for an individual with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to provide quality services, he needs an individualized job plan designed specifically for him by his supervisor or team members which will address skills strengths and weaknesses as well as potential areas of success within different types of settings such as schools, hospitals, or daycare centers. This job plan also needs to address whether he should be placed in an area where his presentation would be more disruptive and how the individuals working with him can help him succeed in his environment.

Employers should also be aware that despite a person’s ASD diagnosis, he can still learn skills for effective performance in the workplace. In many cases, this involves following guidelines and rules, which can be learned by other persons who aren’t on the spectrum. The person with ASD may have difficulty expressing his thoughts or feelings verbally but can communicate well through eye contact, gestures and tone of voice. Employment of individuals with ASD is not possible in every setting but there are ways an employer can make it workable including working closely with local Autism employment support groups, hiring individuals who have experience in accommodating people with disabilities or adapting work practices to accommodate them as long as they do not negatively impact productivity or safety.

Some individuals with ASD also require individualized equipment and may be limited in their ability to communicate adequately if they use standard equipment and have lost the ability to modify it. For example, a person can’t communicate as effectively on a standard computer keyboard if he uses only two fingers instead of all ten. The person may need more time or special training for repetitive tasks such as using an automated voice recognition system. A person who has autism might also benefit from having a quiet area where he can hear what others are saying but not participate in the conversation, instead, asking to leave and wait until you let him know that things are safe to come back.

Employers can also explore whether an individual may be able to work on a part-time basis or with flexible hours. This may depend on the individual’s ability to manage his own time as well as communication with others. Employers should also familiarize themselves with ADA requirements and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA). This latter legislation has made it easier for persons with disabilities to obtain disability accommodations even if they don’t meet the original ADA’s definition of disabled.

In addition, employers should know that 54% of individuals who are diagnosed with ASD are unemployed. Many former employees have reported being discriminated against due to their autism diagnosis and some have had their job performance questioned in order to justify an employee’s firing.

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