According to MarketWatch, 500,000 adults on the autism spectrum will age into adulthood over the next 10 years and 85% of college grads affected by autism are unemployed. To put this into perspective, the national unemployment rate is under 4%. So, where is the disconnect?
Are employers discriminating against adults with autism? Is there a lack of opportunities that fit the various skill sets of these job seekers? Or, are candidates unaware of opportunities that are available to them?
Truth be told, it’s a combination of those factors. It appears that companies may avoid hiring neurodiverse talent because they aren’t aware of the benefits. They may not know how to create an autism friendly workplace or believe that providing special training or accommodations would be too difficult.
However, a growing number of companies have discovered that hiring neurodiverse talent means a competitive advantage in today’s world. Many businesses, from large multinational corporations to local mom and pop shops, have successfully embraced this previously untapped pool of talent and are reaping the benefits.
Unfortunately, knowledge of these job programs and opportunities is limited, which is why we wanted to put together an article to highlight trendsetting organizations and raise awareness about the services they provide. Our list (which we’ll continue to grow) will include small local companies that others can study and perhaps emulate, large organizations with well-established hiring programs, education and networking resources for companies interested in providing future opportunities, and more.
This list is based on our reading and should not be considered an endorsement of any particular type of program or opportunity, so please click and explore them for yourself. If you’ve heard of or are involved in a job program or resource we missed, let us know so we can add it to our list!
Alpine Learning Group
The Ely Center for Adult Learning in Paramus, NJ has been the home of the Alpine Learning Group’s adult day program since 2015. This program includes a twelve month ABA-based curriculum for learners ages 21+ focused on identifying paid employment and volunteer opportunities.
“We believe in an individualized approach to maximize outcomes and support learners with autism and their families as they face both short and long-term challenges.”
“Alpine Learning Group’s Adult Program is a qualified provider through the Division of Developmental Disabilities providing ongoing, practical education and support throughout adulthood. This unique program offers comprehensive day programming services designed to promote the skills necessary for our participants to lead productive and enjoyable lives.”
An Employer’s Guide to Managing Professionals on the Autism Spectrum
This book by Marcia Scheiner and Joan Bogden explores reasons to hire professionals on the autism spectrum along with tips to manage employee interactions and performance. It can be purchased online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Google Books.
“Employees with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be beneficial to a workforce … This guide helps managers and colleagues successfully interact with and support these professionals on the autism spectrum to ensure mutual working success.”
“Marcia Scheiner and Joan Bodgen’s excellent book is a very valuable guide to the challenges that people with autism face in the workplace, balanced with the assets and gifts that they bring to the workplace.” -Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, Director of the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University
Art Enables, offers a number of programs for artists with disabilities to help build successful careers in the arts. Established in 2001 with a studio in Washington, DC, they have a studio art program, exhibitions & gallery program and community arts program to help artists gain experience and grow.
“Art Enables is an Art Gallery and Vocational Arts program dedicated to creating opportunities for artists with disabilities to make, market, and earn an income from their original and compelling artwork.”
“Art Enables believes that artists with disabilities are vital to a robust arts landscape and should be afforded the opportunity to pursue art as a vocation and career. Art Enables works with artists that experience a broad range of developmental and cognitive disabilities as well as mental health challenges including autism, Down syndrome, traumatic brain injury, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, among others. Art Enables’ artists are largely self-taught and tell honest, unfiltered and powerful stories through their artwork.”
Autism Speaks offers a number of resources for job seekers with autism. They have an Employment Tool Kit to help candidates research, find and keep employment in the competitive labor market, along with programs described in the quotes below.
“The Spectrum Careers (TSC) is a web portal that was launched in April 2015 to address critical employment related challenges facing the adult autism community. Jointly developed by Rangam Consultants Inc. and Autism Speaks, The Spectrum Careers program is currently being used by several multinational corporations that want to tap into the vast potential of workers on the spectrum.”
“Autism Speaks is proud to collaborate with NEXT for AUTISM and the Poses Family Foundation to expand ADVICE, a program that helps companies develop initiatives to hire, train and retain employees with autism. ADVICE also works with companies to design autism-friendly environments in order to improve worker and customer experiences.”
Autism Workforce is dedicated to an autism-ready approach to the workforce. They provide staff training and support, workplace and job preparation and employee on-boarding services. Based out of La Grange, IL, they have developed partnerships with a number of companies and educational institutions in the area.
“Our research-based employment model successfully prepares both the company and the candidate. This collaboration results in having the right person in the right job, and a great return on investment for the company.”
“We are driven to help companies enjoy the benefits of employing this ready, willing and able workforce. Using well-thought-out and proven strategies, we bridge the gap between good intentions and the need to take care of business.”
AutonomyWorks pairs talented individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with leading companies to provide cost-effective marketing and business services. Headquartered in Downers Grove, Illinois, they also provide in-depth training for both companies and talent.
“AutonomyWorks frees companies from the burden of repetitive processing work so they can focus more time and attention on strategy and results.”
“We leverage the talents of people with autism – attention to detail, focus through repetitive tasks, and dedication to quality – to provide our clients with essential services. Our unique workforce, industry expertise and supporting technology enable us to deliver exceptional quality and productivity.”
Coding Autism helps adults with autism find gainful employment through online training courses that teach coding skills. They offer scholarships funded by Autism Speaks and GameStop to provide five $2000 scholarships for students who apply for their online coding programs.
“Coding Autism is building the first autism specialized coding academy, pairing online coding education, community and an autism-savvy support team to help transition talent with autism into our technology workforce.”
“Amazing program - making a huge difference! This is a great opportunity for a talented segment of our population that might otherwise be underutilized and continue to be underappreciated.” -Carol Brill, Coding Autism Supporter
Computer Aid, Inc. - Autism2Work
Autism2Work is a program offered by Computer Aid, Inc. (CAI) that creates employment opportunities for adults with autism, matching qualified talent with jobs in IT and operations. They manage all components of the process, including recruiting, training, integration and supervision.
“We offer full-time and part-time positions depending on the location & project. We have roles including but not limited to; Data Analyst, Image Verifier, Quality Assurance Support Analyst, Operations Support Analyst, UAT Support Analyst, Junior Developer and Business Support Analyst (scanning and indexing).”
“Autism2Work provides ongoing support, coaching and consultation of new team members to ensure the successful integration and performance.”
Daivergent has built a pool of talented specialists with autism that are available for employers in the data and technology spaces. They offer matching, workplace training matching, and data labeling/annotation services.
“We source our talent from universities and autism agencies throughout the US, supporting our local communities. As a result, we are able to provide unparalleled responsiveness and referrals for in-person hires.”
“Daivergent integrates into popular HR software to allow talent organizations seamless access to this neurodiverse population.”
DifferentBetter by ULTRA
DifferentBetter by ULTRA Testing is an online test that illustrates how perception, logic and perspective are heightened in individuals with autism. The goal of this test is to encourage employers to embrace neurodiverse talent in their organizations.
“DifferentBetter is an initiative of ULTRA Testing to celebrate Neurodiversity. A wide range of companies including Microsoft, SAP and ULTRA have already embraced neurodiversity, and are proving that tapping into the strengths of individuals with autism can produce extraordinary results.”
“Founded by two MIT engineers in 2013, ULTRA Testing is a neurodiverse technology company that provides agile, high quality software testing services. ULTRA’s exceptional onshore teams include individuals on the Autism Spectrum, who can have heightened abilities that are an exact match for software testing.”
Disability:IN empowers businesses to achieve disability inclusion and equality through their network of companies and autism-focused hiring initiatives. They offer autism hiring guidance and an online community for support.
“Disability:IN is the leading nonprofit resource for business disability inclusion worldwide. Our network of over 185 corporations expands opportunities for people with disabilities across enterprises. Our central office and 30 affiliates serve as the collective voice to effect change for people with disabilities in business.”
“We are a collection of innovative leaders who spearhead autism-focused hiring initiatives. As a collection of cross industry employers, we lead field-specific recruitment efforts. The results have been significant for our culture development and for people with autism.”