Resources

Employment

Employment plays a pivotal role in adulthood. By using appropriate services and support and taking advantage of an individual’s strengths and abilities, employment is attainable for most adults who experience Autism. Planning for future employment should be part of every child’s life plan and career pathways should be expected in adulthood. There are stereotypes around which types of jobs are “good” for people who experience Autism, but these are simply stereotypes. Adults with Autism are represented in every profession.

When planning for employment, it’s helpful to connect with your local Autism Society affiliate and/or Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (can be found online), which has representation in each state and territory in the United States and can be found online. The state vocational rehabilitation agency assists people with Autism and other disabilities to prepare for and engage in employment. This agency has resources and connections to meet your career goals, whether you need education prior to employment, a communication aide, or a job coach, they can be a great resource.

Employment Models

There are different types of employment that can
be pursued and acquired.

Competitive employment is the most independent, with little to no formal support offered in the work environment. Another facet of competitive employment is integrated employment, which ensures that the employee is able to interact and is on a team with other employees that do not experience Autism, as opposed to being in a siloed department and/or physical location that is only for employees with Autism.

Self-employment is also an option some individuals with Autism pursue. This requires that you become a business owner or secure work as a freelancer. This requires strong motivation, but can offer greater flexibility.

Supported employment Is paid employment that provides ongoing support (e.g. a job coach or paid supervisor). Supported employment has typically been provided to those with more significant support needs.

Sheltered employment guarantees a job in a facility-based setting that is typically segregated and employs only individuals with disabilities. However, these are mostly being phased out since many are not in line with best-practices.

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The Autism Society and the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) at the University of Massachusetts Boston work together in a multi-level collaboration, touching on the areas of transition to postsecondary education and employment, and community supports for success in adulthood. Our partnership began in 2019, and since then we have produced toolkits and webinars focused on advancing competitive integrated employment for individuals with Autism throughout their lifespan.

Competitive Integrated Employment for People with Autism: A Toolkit for Professionals & Advocates in the Autism Community

  • This toolkit provides a detailed description of the importance of competitive integrated employment and how it compares to other employment settings. It also provides resources to help find competitive integrated employment, and to professionals on how to support employees with Autism.

Creating a Path: How to Support Families and Young Adults with Autism to Prepare for Competitive Integrated Employment

  • This toolkit focuses on considerations and resources to assist families and youth in preparing for competitive integrated employment. This toolkit explores the value of each preparation activity and shares strategies for families and young adults with Autism to put them on a path toward competitive integrated employment.

The Autism Society developed a Tips & Tricks in the Workplace resource, available for download here. This free resource offers a short list of recommendations for supports
that a company and/or an ERG can advocate for to better support Autistic colleagues. These best practices can benefit all employees as well.

Statistics

Data is emerging that demonstrates adults with Autism are chronically underemployed. For support in securing and maintaining employment, there are many agencies that can help. These include state employment offices, vocational rehabilitation departments, social services offices, mental health departments, and disability-specific organizations. Many of these agencies, as well as other valuable services and support, can be found in the Autism Society’s nationwide online database, Autism Source. Search or call today to find programs in your area!

Resources

  • Mentra is on a mission to empower every neurodivergent to reach their fullest potential in the workforce. The Mentra platform is a neurodiversity employment network that matches autistic professionals with meaningful careers where they can bring their full selves to work. The Mentra platform is free for candidates – you can click here to sign up and connect with neuro-inclusive companies.
  • Historically, the emphasis has been on adults with Autism modifying their behavior to “fit in” at their workplace. More recently, there has been an understanding that employers benefit from being neuro-inclusive. The Autism @ Work Playbook is a resource that guides employers in finding individuals with Autism and creating meaningful employment opportunities.
  • A workplace accommodation is an adjustment to a job or work environment that makes it possible for an individual with a disability to perform their job duties. Workplace accommodations are only slightly more commonly requested by people with disabilities. Accommodations may include new or modified equipment; physical changes to the workplace; policy changes to the workplace; changes in work tasks, job structure, or schedule; changes in communication or information sharing; changes to comply with religious beliefs; accommodations for family or personal obligations; training; or other changes. Workplace accommodations are often no or very little cost to the employer.