By Professor Tony Attwood and Dr. Michelle Garnett
Getting and keeping a job can be difficult for autistic people. One survey indicated over 73 per cent of adults with autism have concerns about getting and keeping a job (Attwood, Evans & Lesko, 2014). A recent study of over 400 autistic adults found that only 24 per cent are employed (Griffiths et al 2019). Parents also have their concerns, and they consider employment support as their greatest service priority (Neary, Gilmore & Ashburner, 2015). We also know that having a university degree does not necessarily lead the way for employment success, with few autistic adults working in their undergraduate field of study. Many autistic adults who have a job are under-employed, that is their job does not match the person’s abilities, qualifications, and aspirations.
This is despite autism being associated with qualities that are sought by employers such as reliability, accuracy, persistence, attention to detail, liking routines and procedures, creativity in problem solving, extensive factual and technical knowledge, a strong sense of social justice, not letting socializing be a distraction, being talented in identifying errors for quality control and a natural ability with cataloguing information and identifying patterns and sequences.
Having a successful career can significantly improve self-worth and self-identity, provide structure and purpose to the day, an opportunity to make friends, increase income and greater financial independence and be an effective antidote to depression.
We consider that no job or career would automatically be viewed as impossible due to being autistic. This can include the expected careers in engineering, information technology, accounting and being a scientist at university, but also a career in the arts in terms of being a fine artist, musician, or author. We have also known autistic adults who have been successful in the caring professions, from nursing to psychology, as well as the military, police force and politics as well as careers caring for animals such as being a vet or zookeeper. There is no automatic restriction on choice of career if someone is autistic.
Where to From Here?
Our online courses cover many aspects of autism in different age groups and genders, including Diagnosis for Autistic Adults and Support & Therapy for Autistic Adults. We also offer live and webcast events.
Attwood, T., Evans B., & Lesko, A. (2014). Been There, Done That, Try This. JKP: London.
Griffiths S, Allison C, Kenny R, Holt R, Smith P, Baron-Cohen S. The Vulnerability Experiences Quotient (VEQ): A Study of Vulnerability, Mental Health and Life Satisfaction in Autistic Adults. Autism Res. 2019 Oct;12(10):1516-1528.
Neary, P., Gilmore, L., & Ashburner, J. (2015). Post-school needs of young people with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 18, 1–11.