NOTE: Employment issues will loom larger than school issues as kids grow into adulthood and the autism epidemic "ages out." Not all people with autism are as severely affected as many of our children, including my three daughters. Many will have the IQ, education and skills to have gainful employment. But what will that look like? How many will be employed and fully using their skills versus grossly underemployed, therefore under-earning. Not everyone with autism will qualify for disability payments. What's going to happen to our tax coffers if millions of men (and women) are earning well below what they should? How will employers handle the behaviors and challenges of autism? There will be horror stories and heroes alike.
Is your child with autism employed? Are you an adult on the spectrum who is working? Tell us. This is an interesting article from the Atlantic Magazine.
Why Some Companies are Trying to Hire More on the Autism Spectrum
The majority of those with autism are unemployed, but new pilot programs at big companies, such as EY and Microsoft, are discovering unexpected benefits from having "neurodiverse" colleagues.
Interest in what’s called neurodiversity is growing at American companies. This year, the accounting firm EY (formerly known as Ernst & Young) has been piloting a program to employ people with autism in order to explore the benefits of having workers of different cognitive abilities, such as greater productivity and building a more talented workforce.
According to a recent study by Drexel University, 58 percent of young adults with autism are unemployed. And yet, many of them have skills that businesses are looking for. “This program leverages the skills that people with high functioning autism often have: looking at data, dealing with mathematical concepts, attention to detail, the ability to focus over long periods of time, and looking at large bodies of information and spotting anomalies,” explains Lori Golden, EY Abilities Strategy Leader who led the pilot program. Right now, EY’s program has four employees who work as accounting-support associates.
EY recruited the candidates, and adjusted its training and onboarding processes to become more comfortable for individuals on the autism spectrum. In addition to regular training, Golden says that EY provided hands-on training during which employees in its neurodiversity program could watch work happen in real-time as part of job training. In turn, the program has also resulted in some thoughtful reflection from the company’s managers. “One thing that happened that I thought was really interesting was that, as our supervisors went through training these individuals everyday, they stopped and asked ‘Can this be improved? Are we communicating the right way?’” says Golden. What EY found was that having colleagues with autism challenged the office’s status quo, and made it easier to broach questions about whether or not communication and management strategies were effective and logical. Read more at Why Some Companies are Trying to Hire More on the Autism Spectrum.