Job Market Tough for Young Adults With Autism10/28/11
THURSDAY, Oct. 27 (HealthDay News) -- More children are being
diagnosed with autism than ever before and now many of these
children are graduating from high school and entering, or at least
trying to enter, the workforce.
Unfortunately, this critical crossroads is precisely the time
that supportive services for this population tend to peter out.
"What we're seeing now is this group of adults with the autism diagnosis who have been more empowered and supported than ever before, but they're leaving behind the school structure and special-ed structure," said Scott Standifer, a clinical associate professor at the University of Missouri's School of Health Professions. "The system of adult disability support is very different, so they're having trouble figuring out and making that transition. The world of work is not the same as the world of school."
The result? People with autism have higher rates of unemployment
and, when they do work, tend to earn less.
According to a fact sheet compiled by Standifer based on data
from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and other sources, less
than one-third of people with a disability aged 16 to 65 were
working in 2010, compared with about two-thirds of people without a
disability. And people with autism were only about half as likely
to be working as people with disabilities in general (33 percent
compared with 59 percent).
One study found that almost 40 percent of young adults with
autism get no medical, mental health or case management services to
help them make the transition into adulthood.
Meanwhile, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, about one in 110 children in the United States has been
diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, a neurodevelopmental
disorder characterized by problems with language and social
It is these communication issues that may pose the greatest
obstacle for adults with autism both to find a job and to keep it,
"Autism doesn't qualitatively change when you hit adulthood. You've got the same issue with reading social signals, with understanding instructions," said Standifer, whose office provides training and consultation to State Vocational Rehabilitation agencies. "We forget how important social relationships are in maintaining employment."
For instance, one of the most trying parts of the workday for an
individual with autism is the lunch break and its almost mandatory
socializing requirement. "There's no script. [Individuals with
autism] don't know what to do," said Standifer, who organizes an
annual "Autism Works" conference.
But even something as mundane as a stapler missing off a desk
can also upset a person with autism, who then may not have the
skills to express their frustration or confusion.
Families of people with autism as well as employers and
co-workers can all help to make the employment experience a
positive one for these individuals. Here are some tips:
- Families should start preparing for their teens' transition
into adulthood and the work force well in advance, perhaps even as
much as two or three years before graduation. "People with autism
are often so anchored in routines that it is important to have new,
productive routines in place for them well before they hit
graduation and leave school behind," Standifer said.
- Find a job that matches their more general abilities and
strengths. Although it's hard to generalize, people with autism
often do well doing gardening, simple bookkeeping, merchandising
(such as folding or organizing clothes in a department store), as
well as in library and school settings, said Charles Archer, CEO of
the Evelyn Douglin Center for Serving People in Need, in Brooklyn,
N.Y., an organization that helps people with disabilities live
- Take advantage of local vocational rehabilitation counselors,
more of whom are cropping up all over the country, Standifer
- Find jobs with consistent routines. "Individuals with autism
need a workplace that is structured, that's non-judgmental, that
provides ongoing training and very, very strong levels of
consistency either in work and/or communication," said Archer.
- Create accessible work environments. This might include
providing written instructions for a task rather than verbal
Autism Speaks has a
transition toolkit for young adults with
Copyright © 2011
. All rights reserved.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.