Creating space for people with autism in the workplace

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America is facing an unemployment crisis as a result of the pandemic. As the virus has spread, millions of people find themselves out of work and struggling to find new means for income.

Though the unemployment rate is high, this struggle is not a new one for those in the autism community. This is because even in times without a pandemic, people on the autism spectrum have a disproportionately more difficult time finding jobs than those not on the spectrum.

Not only is this discrimination unfair and unjust, but it continues to reinforce the idea that differences aren’t good and shouldn’t be celebrated within the workforce.

Let’s talk autism

For starters, autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, is a spectrum of developmental disabilities that can affect communication, social skills, relationships and self-regulation. Because it is a spectrum, autism can look different for each individual and also can be diagnosed at a variety of ages.

Some common characteristics of autism include preferring routines and familiar schedules, sensory sensitivity and a strong interest in a particular topic or item. There is an unfortunate stigma around people with autism that they are unemployable or would have poor work performance. In truth, this could not be farther from reality.

Enriching the workplace

Having autism is not something to be looked down on. However, unfortunately, it is often the reason why a person is not hired or further considered for employment. This practice is harmful, both to the applicant and the workplace. In fact, although some may consider autism a disability, it is actually an advantage, especially inside the workplace.

People with autism often possess highly sought-after traits such as strong visual skills, a consistent work ethic, above-average intelligence, honesty and strong problem-solving skills. Those on the spectrum find comfort in structure, independence and responsibility which, in essence, is being provided through work.

Hiring people with autism enriches the workplace and creates a more diverse environment, which is something all companies should strive for. By bringing in new hires who are on the autism spectrum, managers have an opportunity to grow by setting clearer instructions for tasks and providing more detailed feedback. This will make other employees who may have friends or family members on the spectrum feel more comfortable and supported at work.

Creating a working environment composed of diverse backgrounds leads to a better workforce. Employees who work with people who have different backgrounds are given an opportunity to expand their viewpoints. This can improve morale, creativity, workplace flexibility and create a well-rounded workplace.

Normalizing autism

For a person on the autism spectrum, landing their first job is a big milestone and a huge step on the road to adulthood. Having a job provides them with structure, independence and new responsibilities, and improves their self-esteem immensely. Jobs also present people on the spectrum with independence.

Everyone remembers the excitement of getting their first job, whether or not they are on the spectrum. Being different is something that should not only be embraced but also celebrated. This is why the stigma around people who have autism in the workplace must end.

At Gateway Pediatric Therapy, we are continuing to fight this stigma. We help young adults on the spectrum build confidence and prepare them for the workforce. After all, they belong in professional settings just as much as anyone else does.

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