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Why Should Autistic People Work

Autumn colors reflecting on water at Potato Creek in North Liberty, Indiana

Employment is fulfilling for many people, regardless of their abilities. One of the lowest employment rates is with Autistic people. With the increased opportunities to be able to work from home, there shouldn’t be an excuse for an Autistic person to be unable to work if they are capable of doing so. One of the biggest reasons for Autistic people being unable to work, is due to lack of transportation and being unable to drive. More people are working from home, many with disabilities, so they can have meaningful employment while still accommodating themselves and staying safe from COVID-19.

A large amount of Autistic people worldwide live entirely on disability benefits and feel they are unable to work, due to many reasons. They feel discouraged from making too many mistakes, may be unmotivated to look for work, may have challenges with their mental health that make it challenging to get and keep a job, may have physical medical issues that prevent them from working, and some have anxiety over working. 

Many Autistic people do not make much effort to look for work, because often times, they do not know where to look. They also are fearful they will not be accepted at work, due to the many challenges that Autism creates, that is misunderstood by many. Many people that do not understand Autism, are intolerant of their unusual behaviors such as stimming. They are also intolerant of meltdowns and outbursts. 

For an Autistic person to obtain and keep a successful job, they need to be with a company that is willing to hire and work with people with disabilities. Many major tech companies, such as Microsoft and Motorola, hire people with disabilities, including Autism. Other companies that are smaller with simpler jobs, such as Walgreens, Wal-Mart, and some of the local grocery stores, also hire people with disabilities. 

Some of the employees in these companies are trained to work with people with disabilities and some are not. No company will tolerate meltdowns or outbursts that cause damage to people or property, so an Autistic person needs to have self-control with their mental health challenges. If you throw a computer or a can of soup across the room, it’s a given that you will get fired. 

Autistic people need to learn self-calming techniques in order to function in a work environment and they also need to learn how to accommodate their sensory issues, because the place of employment cannot make the environment sensory-friendly. 

These accommodations can include:

🍅 Wearing sensory-friendly clothes under required work clothes. (tee shirt under collared uniform shirt; leggings under work pants)

🌾 Taking headphones to work and using them without audio input

🏵️ Having certain comfort items with them

🍑 Wearing sunglasses or a brimmed hat to work

🍀 Working from home, whenever possible

Many Autistic people have unique talents that can benefit them in the workplace, depending on what job they have. For example, I have many talents and my main special interest is the Motorola brand of cell phones. I am very talented at helping people with their cell phones and fixing issues that arise that do not pertain to hardware. That is why I am working towards a career with Motorola. 

If possible, working in a job that pertains to the Autistic individual’s special interest, would be best. Someone who is talented at computer programming, could work for a tech company and help write apps for consumers. A person that is talented at building or making things could make things to sell or make specialized products for companies with their logo on it. A person talented at cooking could work in a restaurant or bakery. Every person has something they are good at. Why not use your talents at work?

For anyone, having meaningful employment means learning financial responsibility, working toward the things you want, supporting yourself or your family (pets included), and feeling grown up. It makes you feel you are contributing to society and making a difference. It gives you something to do during the day that is meaningful, and in most cases, making a living, doing what you love most. What we do for work, becomes a big part of who we are. You might even have friends and  family members coming to ask you for help in your field. For example, my friends and family know that I have been helping others with cell phones for 10 years, so they know they can ask me for help. My family also knows I sew for a hobby, and they can ask me to sew things for them or repair things that are torn, or need buttons. 

As an Autistic woman myself, I believe it’s important to have a job you love, if you are able to get it. People are more likely to be more reliable at work if they have a job that they love. What kind of job do you or a loved one have and do you enjoy it?

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