The continued growth in white collar and service sector employment (where job descriptions routinely stress interpersonal skills) creates obstacles for people with deficits in social communication. As one autistic person told The Huffington Post, “the conveyor belt of traditional employment puts you at a huge disadvantage with high-functioning autism, because you talk the way you do, and that's an automatic strike one.” In the workplace as in college, disclosure involves the dilemma of difference. Writes Katherine Bouton, an author with a hearing impairment: “If you announce your condition, you risk being stigmatized; if you keep it a secret, you risk poor performance reviews or even being fired.”At The Gazette of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Liz Zabel writes about the high unemployment among autistic adults:
Much of that is due to the conventional interview process, said Lisa Goring, executive vice president of programs and services at Autism Speaks, an awareness and advocacy organization dedicated to funding research on the causes, prevention, treatments and cure for autism.
When you have difficulty socializing or even speaking, an interview setting in which you must prove your worth by talking about your abilities can be extremely difficult, she explained. Worse yet, if they’re completely lacking verbal skills, they’re unable to interview at all.
“It’s so unfortunate because so many people with autism have really good skills that are beneficial to employers, but they don’t get a chance to demonstrate them,” she said.
Even if they make it through the interview, some have difficulty with loud noises, bright lights, uncomfortable uniforms and other sensory issues.
“Some people will have meltdowns at work because their boss doesn’t realize the texture of their uniform is driving them nuts,” said Leah Parker, an autistic University of Iowa student and board member of the East Central Iowa Autism Society. “Having dialogues with autistic people about what their sensitivities are or their threshold for certain things to make a calmer environment from the get go is really important.”
Some, with the support of vocational rehabilitation, training and flexibility of employers, are lucky to find work that suits them.