In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the employment of adults with autism and other developmental disabilities. Many posts have discussed programs to provide them with training and experience.
Byran Dai was 24 when he promised his mother, who passed away less than two months later, that he would look out for his younger brother Brandon, who is autistic. Brandon, 15 at the time, was receiving special education and social services, but Mr. Dai knew that by 22, his brother would phase out of the services and education provided by the state.
“In the autism community, we call that ‘falling off the cliff,’” Mr. Dai said. “It’s what a lot of families are worried about.”
Like so many entrepreneurs inspired by personal experience, Mr. Dai’s concern for his brother ultimately became the genesis for a new business. In 2018, Mr. Dai co-founded Daivergent, a start-up that is connecting tech companies with a pool of candidates on the autism spectrum. The company already has 20 corporate clients and has helped 75 people find work. There are about 1,100 candidates in the Daivergent pool.
The employment rate for individuals on the spectrum — even for those who have finished college — is extremely low. Statistics vary, but according to Anne Roux, a research scientist at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute at Drexel University, about 50 percent of those on the autism spectrum have had at least one job since high school, but often that job is a low-paying part-time position. For those with greater impairment, she added, only 14 percent have employment in the community in which they live.