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ASD Employment Resources and Career Guide

According to the Autism Society, more than 3.5 million Americans live with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Worldwide, about 1% of the population is on the autism spectrum. People with ASD can have a wide range of neurodevelopmental disorders. While some face significant barriers when pursuing an education or seeking employment, others are able to find jobs in a variety of workplaces. 

However, workers with ASD may still face discrimination, isolation, or exclusion. In the U.K., 43% of people with some level of autism who responded to a National Autism Society survey said they had left or lost a job because of their condition. 

Despite these statistics, existing regulations, support, and resources make it possible for people with ASD to succeed in the workplace. Because of this legal and professional support, those with ASD can pursue any career that they want. Furthermore, some professions present fewer challenges to job seekers on the autism spectrum. These career paths offer people with ASD significant opportunities for career advancement and skills development. 

Here is what people with ASD need to know as they go about getting a job:

ADA Accommodations for ASD Individuals

The first step that you need to take as you seek out a job is to understand the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA protects the workplace rights of people with ASD. Actually, the ADA offers protections for people with disabilities in all facets of public life. 

The first section of the ADA deals explicitly with employment. This section, known as Title 1, seeks to guarantee equal treatment for people with disabilities in the workplace. Title 1 covers civil rights on the job and provides protections for people with disabilities during job search and hiring processes. 

In basic terms, Title 1 says that companies, agencies, and organizations with more than 15 employees cannot discriminate against qualified job applicants and employees who have a disability. These companies need to provide reasonable accommodations so that people with disabilities can complete the fundamental duties of their position. Employers also need to provide equal benefits and career advancement opportunities to employees with disabilities, including ASD. 

People with a disability who feel that an employer has discriminated against them can file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is part of the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ). The DoJ suggests that you file a charge of discrimination promptly, though the law says that you have 180 days from when the incident of discrimination occurs to submit the paperwork. 

Reasonable Work Accommodations for People With Autism

For most job seekers, the most important part of Title 1 has to do with “reasonable accommodations.” What exactly are reasonable autism accommodations in the workplace? An employer needs to provide support or equipment so that a qualified employee with a disability can perform the fundamental tasks required in their job. For employees with ASD, reasonable accommodations often involve altering processes or policies. 

The Job Accommodation Network provides examples of work accommodations for people with ASD. These examples include providing a mentor to offer personalized on-the-job training and issuing apps or other equipment that helps the employee focus, organize work tasks, and communicate with others. An employer might also provide training to other workers, so that they are aware of the needs of employees with ASD. 

Employees with ASD have unique needs depending on the specific conditions associated with their disability. 

Negotiating Reasonable Accommodations

Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations, but they only have to do so if the employee requests such action. In order to request accommodations, you need to tell your employer’s human resources department about your disorder. When doing so, you can provide details about the type of support that you think you will need to perform your job tasks. 

While the employer needs to provide this support to comply with Title 1, they do not necessarily have to accept specific requests. For example, someone with ASD may request that the employer not require them to attend meetings or make presentations. The employer can deny this request and instead change procedures so that the employee with autism can prepare written presentations or receive the topics for the meeting beforehand so that they can prepare. 

Some employers have policies in place to provide support to employees with disabilities. In some cases, employers and employees can use these predetermined accommodations as a starting point to negotiate specifics.  

When to Disclose a Disability

If you do not need reasonable accommodations, you do not have to disclose a disability to your employer. 

Since Title 1 extends to the hiring process, you can request reasonable accommodations for an interview. If you need special accommodations during the interview process, you need to disclose your disability to your employer when they contact you to set up the appointment. This disclosure timeline gives them a reasonable amount of time to make the changes that you need. 

Best Jobs for Individuals With Autism

The ADA also extends to education, so people on the autism spectrum have the protections to pursue any career that they wish. However, some jobs for people with autism do not have the same challenges or barriers as other professions. Here are some jobs worth considering in that regard: 

Animal Care

  • Benefits: In animal care careers, you spend your time working directly with animals. Many people on the autism spectrum have an affinity for animals as well as the organizational skills to provide a high level of care. 
  • Average Salary: $22,000 to $31,000.
  • Education and Skills Required: Animal care workers need experience and a high school diploma. If you offer specialized, technical care, you need an undergraduate or graduate degree. 
  • Outlook: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for workers in animal care specialties will grow much faster than average over the next decade. 

Computer Science

  • Benefits: Computer science and programming careers do not require a high degree of social interaction. These jobs reward attention to detail, and some employers allow employees to work remotely. 
  • Average Salary: $84,280.
  • Education and Skills Required: You typically need a bachelor’s degree in computer science, though some companies accept a technical degree or equivalent experience. 
  • Outlook: Overall, the number of workers in computer occupations, especially software development, will grow. However, the demand in some specialties, such as computer programming, will fall due to outsourcing. 

Journalism

  • Benefits: Journalists focus on obtaining facts and must be thorough when organizing stories. Also, you can often work on a freelance basis outside of an office setting. 
  • Average Salary: $45,845.
  • Education and Skills Required: This career usually requires a bachelor’s degree in journalism, though some employers work with journalists who have a strong portfolio.
  • Outlook: Demand for qualified journalists will grow in the coming years as the number of news outlets increase. 

Manufacturing

  • Benefits: These careers reward attention to detail and are ideal for people who can concentrate on repetitive tasks. 
  • Average Salary: $40,754.
  • Education and Skills Required: Education requirements depend on the duties of a job. Many manufacturing jobs require a high school diploma. You learn through on-the-job training or an apprenticeship. Those in design or equipment programming may need a college degree.
  • Outlook: Demand for manufacturing jobs will remain steady or fall slightly, though the need for people to fill skilled positions should rise. 

Computer-Aided Design and Drafting

  • Benefits: Job seekers with ASD will find that computer-aided design and drafting (CAD or CADD) jobs are a good fit for visual thinkers and those who are also able to pay close attention to detail. 
  • Average Salary: $53,676.
  • Education and Skills Required: Most CAD professionals have an associate degree or post-secondary certificate. 
  • Outlook: The demand for qualified CAD professional will grow at the same rate as the average growth for all professions. 

Job Boards for Individuals With ASD

Resources include job boards that provide listings for job seekers with ASD. Some boards focus on companies that specifically offer spectrum jobs to people with ASD, while others list companies known to hire applicants on the autism spectrum.

  • The Spectrum Careers is a job board that partners with Rangam Consultants, Birch Family Services, and Autism Speaks in order to provide job opportunities and resources.
  • The Tommy Nobis Center provides job training and placement for people with a variety of disabilities.  
  • Getting Hired features job listings from numerous companies who actively seek to hire workers with disabilities. Each listing includes information about the company’s accommodation and accessibility policies. 

Autism @ Work Employer Roundtable is a job board that lists positions specifically available to job seekers with ASD. Each listing includes a job description and application information.

Interview and Resume Tips for Individuals With ASD

How should a job application with ASD approach the interview process? It depends on your particular needs. 

  • Technically, you do not have to notify potential employers about a disability unless you need special accommodations during the interview process. 
  • If you do disclose your ASD, you should not focus on it during the interview. Instead, talk about your qualifications, experience, skills, and education. Keep in mind that the ADA guarantees the rights of qualified job seekers, so the best thing you can do is focus on your qualifications. 
  • You should, however, be ready to discuss your disability and answer questions about any kind of accommodation that you need. You can prepare for this by thinking of examples of how you overcame challenges associated with your disability in the past. 
  • By concentrating on your skills and qualifications, you will also increase your confidence during the interview process. 
  • It is impossible to predict what an interviewer will ask, but you can increase your confidence by conducting practice interviews with a family member or friend. 
  • You can perform research on the company to find out what their values, mission, and company culture are like. You can then use this understanding to tailor your answers for that specific company.
  • While you cannot be sure what an interviewer will ask, you usually have an opportunity to introduce yourself and give a closing statement. You can practice what you will say in these two instances. This can give you confidence at the start of the interview and also leave a good impression at the end. 

Organizations for Individuals With ASD

If you are aware of the resources for job seekers with ASD and you understand how the ADA protects autism employment rights, you can find a job or choose a career that does not have significant barriers or challenges.