Statistics show that 85% of college graduates with autism spectrum disorder are unemployed. Compare those numbers to the current national unemployment rate of 4.5%, and it’s easy see why adults with autism and their advocates are deeply discouraged. Yet, the news isn’t all bad.
Though people with autism continue to experience high rates of unemployment and underemployment, employers are beginning to recognize that hiring people with autism isn’t only a moral imperative, it’s also good business. That’s why companies such as Dell Technologies, Microsoft, Freddie Mac, and Ford are developing programs to train and recruit job candidates with autism spectrum diagnoses.
Writing for Very Well Health, Lisa Jo Rudy notes, “There is an increasing need for workers with the skills, thought patterns, and work ethic that are common among people on the autism spectrum. Autistic adults are, in general, dependable, routinized, focused, detail-oriented, and passionate about their work.” In addition, writes Rudy: “Many have outstanding technical and/or math skills. And quite a few are able to find unique solutions to problems that have eluded their more conventional colleagues.”
Accounting firm Ernst and Young is just one of many large firms that has come to believe that having a neuro-diverse workforce positively impacts the company’s “bottom line.”
Meanwhile, executive director and head of Autism at Work at JP Morgan Chase, James Mahoney, told Fortune that “autistic employees achieve, on average, 48% to 140% more work than their typical colleagues, depending on the roles… They are highly focused and less distracted by social interactions.”
At Dell, people with autism can take part in a 12-week summer internship program that may lead to full-time employment. Originating at the company’s Hopkinton, Mass. headquarters, Dell recently expanded the internship program to a new site in Central Texas. According to Disability Scoop, Dell “plans to bring on roughly a dozen adults for two weeks of training at its Round Rock [Texas] headquarters. Four candidates will be selected for summer internships after the training.”
While corporations such as JP Morgan Chase have in-house programs to recruit, train and support their employees, others partner with nonprofit organizations such as Integrate Autism Employment Advisors (formerly the Asperger Syndrome Training & Employment Partnership) to help them “identify, recruit and retain qualified professionals on the autism spectrum.”
Integrate provides employers with resources such as “An Employer’s Guide to Managing Professionals on the Autism Spectrum,” by Integrate founder Marcia Scheiner. At the same time, Integrate provides job coaching and networking opportunities for job-seekers with autism. Once placed in a job, Integrate staff provides support for the employee and employer for three months. “After we work with employers to develop management strategies to work with someone on the spectrum, most ultimately find that it didn’t require that much more management time,” Scheiner told Nicole Lyn Pesce at Market Watch. “In fact, they find that they become better managers of all of their employees by becoming clearer and more effective communicators.”