Employment should take advantage of the individual’s strengths and abilities. Temple Grandin, Ph.D., suggests that “jobs should have a well-defined goal or endpoint,” and that your “boss must recognize your social limitations.” She recommends that parents begin helping their children find jobs before they leave grade school, to prepare them with job skills and experience. The authors of A Parent’s Guide to Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism describe three types of employment possibilities: competitive, supported, and secure/sheltered.

  • Competitive employment is the most independent, with no support offered in the work environment. Some people might be successful in careers that require focus on details but only limited social interaction with colleagues, such as computer sciences, research or library sciences. It could also help to ask for accommodations, such as a workspace without fluorescent lights, in order to feel more comfortable at work. For more about attaining competitive employment, read this article.

(Self-employment is also an option some people with ASD pursue. This requires strong motivation, but can be more flexible than working for a company.)

  • In supported employment, a system of supports allows people with ASD to pursue paid employment in the community, sometimes as part of a mobile crew, other times individually in a job developed for them.
  • In secure or sheltered employment, an individual is guaranteed a job in a facility-based setting. People in secure settings generally receive work skills and behavior training as well, while sheltered employment might not provide training that would allow for more independence.

To look for employment, begin by contacting agencies that may be of help, such as state employment offices, vocational rehabilitation departments, social services offices, mental health departments and disability-specific organizations. Many of these agencies, as well as other valuable services and supports, can be found in the Autism Society’s nationwide online database, Autism Source. Search or call today to find programs in your area!

For more information, read these Autism Advocate articles:

Adult Employment: Digital Imaging Leads to Job
Moving Into the World of Employment
Off to Work for Individuals with Autism: A Supported Employment Approach
When the School Bus Stops Coming