For individuals with autism, a job increases self-esteem and self-worth. A job provides the independence that comes with a paycheck as well as opportunities to improve social skills, grow a network of friends and support, and pursue passions.
For National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we are sharing how companies can improve lives by employing people with autism. At the same time, the company and its employees will benefit. Employees with autism are reliable, dedicated, focused, attentive to detail, hard-working, and have less turnover than the national average. “Karylon is a true joy to work with! She helps us stay organized, is our official Saturday story-time greeter, and has been a great addition to our team,” one manager said of an employee on the spectrum. Another said, “Heather is a model employee and takes her job very seriously. She is the type of employee that I wish I could clone.”
Working with someone with autism will expand employees’ perspectives and inspire their pride to be part of having an impact in their community. “I think that at the core of each person, they like the idea of doing something for other people,” said Terry Hamlet, the owner of Basnight and Sons in Hillsborough, which employs people on the spectrum. “Hopefully they can feel good about the fact that they work for people who care enough about other people to give them an opportunity.” Plus, a diverse workforce can boost creativity and innovation within a team.
The Autism Society of North Carolina has recently expanded its Employment Supports efforts to include Transition to Employment programs for youth ages 16-26 in the Greenville and Wilmington areas. At this time, we are focusing on targeting businesses in the Triad, Triangle, and Fayetteville regions and are ready to match stellar employees with companies in those areas.
ASNC’s Employment Supports professionals work with adults with autism to assess their skills and interests and then match them to possible jobs. They also help with the application and interview process. ASNC can assist employers by helping to train the employee, educate co-workers about autism, and put in place a structured system to help the employee maintain their job. In some cases, employers may be eligible for tax credits for employing individuals with autism. For more information, see our booklet or contact Shannon Pena, Employment Services Director, at 336-333-0197 ext. 1413 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Serving others through his skills
Gerald Parrish is proud to be serving others and making use of his skills in his job as a Travel Trainer at Alliance of Disability Advocates. He trains older adults and individuals with disabilities how to travel independently on public transportation. Gerald, who is 33 and lives in Raleigh, was diagnosed with autism at age 3.
The Autism Society of North Carolina worked with Gerald as a Vocational Rehabilitation client. ASNC staff helped him acquire the accommodations he needed by writing an accommodation letter to his employer. ASNC staff also created a task list and a script of answers for common questions that his Alliance of Disability Advocates consumers may have for him.
“Sometimes it takes me longer to complete tasks. I like to have a weekly agenda to keep track of everything,” Gerald said. “I typically accommodate myself when I get overloaded.”
Gerald has been so successful at his job that he now receives support only through twice-monthly check-ins. When ASNC staff members visit with Gerald, they discuss any work concerns he might have and help him identify ways to advocate for himself to get what he needs.
Gerald believes that all employers should make efforts to hire people with autism.
“Every workplace needs to have neurodiversity,” Gerald said. “Not everyone with autism has savant-like talent, but many have passionate interests that would make them great assets. Some may be very dedicated workers.”