We understand that employment may not be right for all autistic people, but with it being reported that 77% of unemployed autistic adults want to work, it is important all available opportunities are clear.
Job options depend on abilities and challenges for each person. However, the realities of autism mean that having a strong ability is simply not enough to get and keep a job due to the potential challenges that come along with it. Some of the challenges that may be obstacles to employment as an autistic person relate to:
People with autism can find it difficult to understand verbal and non-verbal cues, often taking things people say very literally, but this can vary for each individual.
Autistic people have difficulty recognising and understanding feelings and emotions of themselves and others. They may have trouble expressing their emotions and interacting with people in an appropriate manner for each situation and may prefer to spend time on their own.
People with autism can find it difficult to plan ahead and have an idea of what may happen in the future and may also find change problematic.
Some autistic people can be overly sensitive to sound, light, touch, smell or taste. In a workplace setting this could mean they require their own dedicated area to avoid being exposed to these aspects.
So what jobs are autism friendly?
The answer to that question is more about the work environment than the industry and job role. However, there are many job roles that autistic people have been recognised to excel within. The suitability of these roles will depend upon the type of autism each individual has but include:
Computer programming: People with autism often do well in this job as they enjoy logical and predictable work that involves a lot of visual information.
Accounting: Accounting is a good job role for autistic people as many are extremely good with numbers. Furthermore, accounting is also based upon rules and logic meaning it is predictable and structured.
Data officer: People with autism can be exceptionally good at spotting errors due to their strong attention to detail, meaning they can excel in a role where they must identify, replicate and change information.
Graphic designer / animator: Autistic people who are good visual thinkers are well-suited to roles within graphic design and animation due to the creative outlet it provides to express their perspective and ideas.
Gardening work: Gardening work is particularly good for autistic people who struggle with social interaction due to being left alone for a lot of the time, to simply get the job done.
Adjusting the workplace to support autistic employees
Provide a clear timetable
This provides the employee with a routine to stick to as much as reasonably possible, providing structure and predictable outcomes each day. It is helpful to outline tasks that need to be completed with a plan B if any tasks aren’t able to be finished for any reason.
Provide clear communication
When interacting with autistic employees it is crucial that information is communicated in the clearest way possible. It is important to use clear and direct language to make sure that nothing is misconstrued, and also provide the opportunity for the employee to ask questions and avoid any confusion or uncertainty.
It is important to provide regular feedback to autistic employees that includes positive points in addition to aspects that may need improvement. It is also important that the manager explains how improvements can be made instead of expecting the employee to provide a solution as this may be something they struggle with.
Effectively manage work arrangements including any sensory sensitivities
As autistic people may struggle with sensory sensitivities it is important to adjust the working environment to allow them to work to their full potential. This may require an adjustment in working hours, designated desk space, adjusted lighting, the use of noise cancelling headphones and the possibility of adapted travel if required.
To find out more about adjustments in the workplace visit the National Autistic Society.
If you would like more guidance on work opportunities as a disabled person, visit our guide for disabled people.