In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the employment of people on the autism spectrum.
Depending on how the term neurodivergent is defined, between 10 and 30 percent of the population has a neurodivergent trait. In the case of autism, every year, 50,000 children on the autism spectrum reach the age of 18, and 44 percent pursue some sort of postsecondary education in order to prepare for the labor market and employment. Yet, over 80 percent of adults on the spectrum go on to be unemployed. Half of those on the spectrum that are employed are underemployed, meaning that they have skillsets that go beyond what their job requires.
Work is integral to social well-being as well as developing meaning, purpose, and sense of contribution to community, but work isn’t just good for neurodivergent workers, it is also good for employers. By excluding neurodivergent individuals from the workforce, we lose their unique gifts and skills, such as exceptional pattern recognition and recall capacity, as well as denying them the satisfaction of being recognized and valued. Companies such as Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard reformed their hiring processes to improve access to neurodivergent talent, and have seen productivity gains as well as increased employee engagement for both neurotypical and neurodivergent workers.