One in 68 Americans is on the autism spectrum. Many autistic adults have significant skills that could benefit many jobs and industries. Yet some studies have shown that at least 80 percent of adults with autism are unemployed.
Some autistic adults know what kind of jobs they want, while others may have no idea. But adults with autism should be able to direct their own lives and be active participants in choosing their career paths. It’s important that someone’s work not only matches their interests and abilities but provides a sense of purpose. This is true no matter what skills or ability level the person has.
So what are some career paths in which autistic adults typically excel? And what steps can people with autism take to ready themselves for the workforce?
Some Career Paths in Which Autistic Adults Typically Excel
It is never a good idea to paint a group of people with broad strokes. Yet there are some common traits and skills associated with many autistic people. Pattern recognition, attention to detail, good long-term memory, advanced problem-solving skills, and a high tolerance for repetitive tasks are all commonly associated with autistic people.
Despite these strengths, some autistic adults have found that good skills are not enough to get and keep a job. Soft skills could be an issue since some people with autism have problems with nonverbal communication. For example, he or she might have difficulty maintaining eye contact or reading facial expressions and body language.
Other challenges stem from a difficulty processing and understanding someone else’s feelings. An autistic person might think he or she is being straightforward, only to be seen as rude and inappropriate. Some may be perceived as lacking interest in sharing experiences, jokes, or celebrations with others. People might say that this person isn’t a team player or has a poor sense of humor.
Within any industry, there are jobs where many autistic adults can thrive. Some common industrieswhere adults with autism work include:
- Administrative and support services. Good attention to detail and repetitive tasks are benefits in these roles.
- Health care, including animal-related. Animals are calming and don’t need to read nonverbal communication.
- High-tech jobs like programming and cyber security. The ability to detect patterns and again, good attention to detail make autistic people sought after in the tech world.
- Scientific or research positions. An ordered environment with set rules and structure is helpful for many autistic adults.
- Autistic people can be helpful when presenting facts without mixing in emotions or opinions.
- Assembly-line manufacturing. Again, repetitive movements and an ordered environment may provide the right workplace.
Steps People with Autism Can Take to Ready Themselves for the Workforce
- Autism Speaks has created a free website to connect autistic job seekers with like-minded businesses. You can register at TheSpectrumCareers to view hundreds of jobs—or answer a few questions to narrow down your search. The video “An Introduction for Job Seekers”shows how the site works.
- You can work with a Vocational Counselor to determine programs to support your career readiness. Those could include resume writing help, job coaching, and interview preparation workshops.
- Search for job descriptions that are very specific about the job’s key functions. This can help you evaluate the positions and be confident in applying for jobs matching your strengths.
- Interviews can be challenging for candidates who answer questions abruptly or avoid eye contact. Practice with a friend or family member to work on these skills. In the interview itself, take the time to make sure you understand each question and ask for clarification if something seems unclear.
- Once offered a job, speak up about any accommodations you may need to succeed in the workplace. The HR department—by law—should be prepared to make any reasonable accommodations necessary. (For example, managers could easily accommodate someone who needs a strict schedule in the workplace.)
- Review the Autism Speaks Employment Tool Kit for further ideas and helpful tips for your job search and readiness.
- View this massive compilation of resources for adults with autism and a list of companies who hire autistic adults.