Still working on your holiday shopping list? If you are looking for ways to support autistic individuals this year, consider spending some holiday dollars supporting autism employment! Support businesses run by people on the spectrum or organizations that help autistic people find meaningful work.
Autism and Employment
There are a number of obstacles autistic individuals face on the road to full-time employment. Difficulty navigating the social expectations of an interview, sensory sensitivities in the work environment, and adapting to changing expectations and a variety of communication styles are only some of the obstacles many autistic adults encounter. According to the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, only 14% of adults with autism who use developmental disability services a paying job.
Recently, there has been a push to bring this issue public and figure out ways to both better serve the autistic community and harness the untapped potential of this neurodiverse pool. This year Stanford held the Autism and Work Summit to drive employment and discover and share best practice ideas for company change.
One common obstacle for autistic employees is communication. There are clear advantages to communicating well in the workplace. Even in jobs that don’t require regular public speaking, group leadership, or interaction with the public, it is still useful to know how to collaborate with coworkers and communicate effectively with a boss. Misinterpreted or misunderstood social behaviors can do more than prevent an autistic person from being invited to join a regular lunch date or the office book club. Miscommunication can strain employee-boss relationships, reduce productivity, and cause unnecessary emotional stress.
An adult I interviewed a while back told me that he had never felt “normal” in a job, and, once he was diagnosed, this unease made more sense. He had learned to navigate the work world with several compensations for his social difficulties. He didn’t apply for a job unless he fulfilled 90% of the criteria. He said that it was important for him to realize his own personal and professional needs, and he made professional choices that supported those.
Support Autistic Entrepreneurs
With the holiday season approaching, consider supporting an autistic-owned business or one that uses profits to directly help autistic individuals on their path to employment. Below is a list of ideas. There are many more. Feel free to comment with any others. Please only add those that directly benefit the autistic community.
- Buy books written by autistic individuals. Many autistic authors have been interviewed on this blog.
- The Autistic Self Advocacy Network shop has lots of pro-neurodiversity merchandise.
- Seeds for Autism provides educational and vocational training to autistic individuals.
- KindTree offers a variety of programs for autistic individuals through art, education, recreation, and community.
- The proceeds from Nick’s Art Project go toward scholarships to offer music and art therapy for individuals on the spectrum.
- Eden Autism offers programs for employment training and placement for autistic individuals.
- Asperkids is an organization run by autistic author and entrepreneur Jennifer O’Toole offering a variety of books, teaching resources, online coaching and video resources.
- Extraordinary Ventures supports small businesses and believes that all people are employable.
- Spectrum Designs employs autistic people and their profits go directly towards their mission of providing autistic employment and spreading awareness of the capabilities of individuals on the spectrum.
- The Autism Women and Nonbinary Network’s Redbubble Shop where your purchase supports autistic women and girls through community, advocacy and resources.
- Artists with Autism is a non-profit group that supports aspiring artists on the spectrum.