A recent article in The Atlantic highlighted a positive trend among top American employers – companies recognizing the benefit of, and seeking out, employees with autism.
Many companies strive to have a more diverse and inclusive workforce, and including careers for people with autism is just one way to achieve such neurodiversity. In the last year, several major companies have developed job training programs, including the accounting firm EY (formerly Ernest & Young), Microsoft, and Ford Motor Company’s “FordInclusiveWorks.”
Hiring an employee with autism not only adds to a corporation’s diversity, but is very likely a sound business decision. Companies can leverage the strengths of those on the spectrum and improve their own business practices.
One job with the FordInclusiveWorks program consists of logging and preparing tires prior to inspection and testing with engineers - a job that calls for extreme focus and organization skills. Employees with autism at EY analyze large quantities of data, looking for patterns or anomalies. Positions that require great attention to detail, are highly structured, or repetitive are often well-suited to the unique strengths of someone with autism. Shifts that are typically difficult to staff or have high turnover, like overnight or solo hours, are often viewed as a dream work environment for individuals on the autism spectrum.
Thanks to intensive early intervention, or Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), many young children with autism are growing up to be fantastic candidates for the workforce, and are ready and eager to contribute to society. But according to a study by Drexel University, only 58% of individuals with autism are actually working after high school, a lower employment rate than found among adults with other disabilities. The rate of unemployment in adults with autism only increases the more time has passed since graduating high school.
Much like any other new hire, workers with autism may need specialized training or minor accommodations in the workplace. This could include assistance from a job coach, having complex tasks broken down into smaller steps, or extra visual supports like lists or schedules written down for future reference.
Those in charge of hiring and interviewing should be understanding of social differences and difficulties for those on the spectrum. An applicant with autism may not make the most eye contact in an interview, or might be blunter and more honest that other applicants who engage in the typical “schmoozing” during the hiring process. But such honesty, directness, and even a dislike of office small-talk can be extremely valuable traits in an employee. In hiring employees with autism, many companies quickly see positive impacts and improvements in their own communication and training processes.