Unemployment is a crisis that many people in this country face. Especially considering we are still in the midst of a pandemic, many have unfortunately lost their jobs and are seeking out new opportunities. However, even before Covid made its way to the United States, unemployment was disproportionately impacting different communities. One of the most effected demographics in this respect are Autistic adults. It has been found that at least 80% of Autistic adults are unemployed. There are a few different reasons for this, and there are some ways to help.
What About People Who Can't Work?
The 80% statistic actually automatically excludes any people who are not capable of working, physically or otherwise. The issue of unemployment is not due to in-capabilities of Autistic adults, but instead it is the fact that the workplace and how we evaluate workers is a system made for neurotypical people. This often has nothing to do with the actual requirements of the job, but rather an evaluation of social norms. There isn't a lack of qualification either, as about 35% of Autistic adults go on to attend college. Yet, only 15% are employed. What is the reason for this?
As there is for most things that don't perfectly fit into the social norm, there is a stigma around autism and those diagnosed with it. There seems to be a consensus that if you are an Autistic adult, you must be one of two things: a literal genius, or someone who is incapable of working at all. This stigma is often perpetuated in the media as well, through television shows and movies. This is just not true. Autistic adults are just as capable as neurotypical adults at most jobs. The problem is that most things that are used to evaluate if someone is capable of a particular job has nothing to do with performing that job. Things like interviews and other evaluations that directly depend on adhering to social norms can pose great difficulty for autistic adults. They can be qualified, able to the job perfectly, but may not do well in an interview. The stigma around autism is extremely harmful to not only children but adults with autism as it hinders their ability to work and to be perceived as human beings.
All too often, accommodations that Autistic adults need in the work place are not offered or available. In fact, there are often obstacles put in place that aren't relevant to the efficiency of the job- similar to the interviews described above-that can majorly impact Autistic adults. Again, all of these people are able to work, but sometimes they can benefit from accommodations in the workplace in order to thrive like their neurotypical counterparts.
Gender and Sexual Identity
According to Thinking Autism Guide, those diagnosed with Autism are seven times more likely to identify as transgender. When you consider the fact that Autistic adults are already disproportionately unemployed, and that transgender people suffer unemployment at three times the national average, it becomes clear that the intersection of the two identities subject people to discrimination and an even bigger risk of unemployment. While this applies to gender and sexuality most prevalence, intersectionality can also be considered for Autistic adults who are part of other marginalized groups that experience unemployment disproportionately as well.
Work Place Discrimination
Sometimes, even once Autistic adults are hired, they suffer from work place discrimination. Whether this is from co-workers or their boss, this can make the work environment very toxic and anxiety-inducing. This discrimination can result in career stagnation or even termination of employment. All work environments need to do better in being inclusive and tolerant in all respects.
What Can We Do?
So, how do we solve this problem? There is no one quick fix, but there are certainly ways to make a difference. Firstly, all workplaces need to become aware of how their hiring process may be discriminating against marginalized groups, and reflect on if their evaluation is really evaluating the ability to be efficient at the job. The next step is ensuring that work environments are inclusive and welcoming of everyone.
It is also important to recognize organizations such as Luv Michael-- a non-profit organization that only hires Autistic adults. Luv Michael makes gluten free granola in a variety of flavors. Since they are a non-profit, they sometimes need assistance. This is why they are running a fundraiser. I have my own account that you can donate to. The money goes directly to Luv Michael and hiring Autistic adults. Absolutely any amount is appreciated. If you donate $25 or more, you can even get some granola sent to you!
I will link the page to donate here, help me reach my goal!
As someone who is neurotypical, I feel I must stress that although I want to raise awareness for this cause, I certainly don't want to speak over voices of actual Autistic adults or people. So, if you are interested in learning more, I found this article by Maxwell Sparrow and this TED talk by Claire Bennett to be especially enlightening. It's always more important to listen to their voices.
If you donate, consider donating, or even just share this article--thank you! This is an issue that I do not see discussed enough; raising awareness and raising money for opportunities is an excellent first step.