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Employing Adults with Autism: You Can Help

The need for employment opportunities for adults with autism is significant; studies have shown that a majority of them are unemployed or underemployed. For individuals on the spectrum, employment not only fosters financial stability and promotes greater independence but also increases self-esteem and provides opportunities to improve social skills, grow a network of friends and support, and pursue passions.

Our dedicated Employment Supports staff works hard to identify, expand and – in some cases – create employment opportunities for adults with autism. Finding potential positions often entails “cold call” visits to businesses and meetings with prospective employers to explain the benefits of hiring people with autism and explore positions that people we serve can fill for them. We work to ensure that potential employers understand that employees with autism are reliable, dedicated, focused, attentive to detail, and hard-working. They also have less turnover than the national average.

 

Personal Connections Improve Chances

While many successful job matches occur as a result of our staff building new relationships with employers, personal referrals are still the best method, as is true with most employment situations. Shannon Pena, our Senior Employment Services Coordinator, explains that the success rate is much greater when someone has connected us with a business, employer, or manager. “It is just much easier when someone the employer knows has already talked to them; then we just explain how we can support them,” Pena said.

Kurt Rundle, an ASNC employee, sits on the board of a local advocacy group and learned that the group was seeking a trainer to help people with disabilities learn to use public transportation. He immediately thought of a gentleman he knew who didn’t have a driver’s license and was very successful in using public transportation to navigate independently. Rundle thought he might be interested in the job and mentioned it to him. “He loved the idea!” Rundle said. “So I set up a meeting with the board’s executive director, and he was hired two weeks later!”

We know many employers would be happy to hire individuals with autism if they were aware of the value they bring as employees. This is where you all can help!

 

You Can Help Employ Adults with Autism

Look within your own place of employment, social network, place of worship, committees, and community. Who do you know who is hiring? Do you know of work that needs to be done? You may even have tasks at your own workplace that no one has been identified to complete.

Or do you have a personal or social connection to someone who is seeking employees? If so, speak to them to find out what their needs are. Share the benefits of employing people with autism and ask whether they are willing to explore it further.

You also can broaden your connections’ understanding of autism. One of the goals that we have when speaking with the public and potential employers about job opportunities is to help them recognize the range of skills, abilities, and interests that adults with autism possess. Many who seek supported employment come to us with higher education and advanced degrees. People whom ASNC staff have supported have succeeded in a wide range of fields and settings, including IT and technical professions, customer service, retail, car dealerships, landscaping, clerical positions, and even acting.

 

Nationwide Efforts

The increasing awareness of the contributions by people with autism and the need for inclusion has led to notable efforts by large companies such as Microsoft and SAP to invest in programs to recruit individuals with autism. In addition, small businesses such as car washes and coffee shops are springing up throughout the country with the same vision: to provide opportunities for individuals with autism and promote inclusion and diversity.

We are extremely excited to witness efforts like these and appreciate that they inspire others. However, the need is great and we cannot rely on the efforts of a few. Imagine if everyone reading this reached out to one potential employer – the effect would be exponentially greater than any single company’s efforts! Together, we can spread the word and increase employment opportunities for people with autism.

If you have contacts to share or ideas for potential job opportunities, please contact Shannon Pena, Senior Employment Services Coordinator, at 336-333-0197, ext. 1413, or spena@autismsociety-nc.org. You can also download and print or request that we send you one of our Employment Supports booklets that provides information to share.

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