Building a Resource to Support the Careers of Autistic Employees

It’s now estimated by the CDC that more than 1 in 59 people born in the US are autistic, and the numbers are consistent worldwide. Supports exist for children, but most autistics drop off a cliff to no support once they are16 and dramatically at 18 and 21.

It’s as if it never occurred to people that autistic kids grow up and become autistic adults with support needs. An estimated 50,000 autistics a year are falling off this cliff into the world of no safety net for basic needs and 85% unemployment.

It’s not surprising that autistics have such a high suicide rate, especially for late teenagers and young adults with no intellectual disability. NeuroClastic is stepping into the breach to create an amazing resource for autistic adults.

As an advocate for autistic people in general and especially autistic adults, I thought I’d write a blog on resources for finding employment for neurodivergent adults. My expectation was that I could just Google and find a list.

Little did I know I was dropping down a rabbit hole into an uncharted landscape.

We can read about the Fortune 500 companies moving into neurodiversity employment and about the Employer’s Roundtable of those big employers. There were some sites with downloadable toolkits for prospective employees, a list of businesses that employ neurodivergent people, and a link to a job search site for job seekers look for jobs and employers to post jobs.

But this is maybe 5% of what’s out there.

I began a search talking to everyone from the Fortune 500 employers like SAP, EY, and Microsoft and known organizations like Specialisterne, USA. I moved on to wonderful organizations that coach, train, and place people like Neurodiversity in the Workplace (Philadelphia, Texas/Dell and companies across the US) and the Autism Alliance of Michigan (coaching and placement for Ford and all of Michigan).

I began to find nonprofit programs like Different Brains in FL (internship) and TACT in Denver (training in trades), Rising Tide Carwash in FL and Electronics Recycling Solutions in Nashville. NIH offers internships in science for high school and college students as well as to college graduates.

I found  IT companies hiring (Daivergent, Aspiritech, and Ultranauts). There’s both large businesses training corporations and small new nonprofits training smaller businesses to accept ND employees. There’s for-pay job coaches and programs to teach independence and interviewing “soft” skills.

Parents are forming small businesses to employ their children and others like them across the US, and many autistics have become entrepreneurs themselves. Askearn.org has a list of articles and resources on successes in ND employment.

However, there are sizable problems. While those key players in the field of neurodiversity employment know of each other, there’s no way autistic adults can know what’s out there without doing what I did.

A great majority of these smaller employment, support, and training programs are in what they call a “silo;” most jobseekers don’t know of them, and most of these smaller companies and programs don’t even know about each other. One training program in TX, the nonPareil Institute, said people 5 minutes away didn’t know of them despite coverage on NPR, CNN, and in the local newspaper.

There are few jobs relative to the huge number needing employment. While there are conferences nationally on the topic of ND employment, there is little practical actionable planning to make a difference soon.

The big employers that get news coverage actually employ very few people. SAP has hired about 150 ND employees and Microsoft has hired about 80. Microsoft gets hundreds of applications for each spot. Most widely-known ND positions are either at the very top tier of skill levels, skimming off the best in IT predominantly, or at the bottom, hiring ND people who might be grossly overqualified for positions way below their capacity.

Since I’ve started, some organizations I’ve spoken with have also taken on the challenge of trying to create a centralized location for larger businesses that hire NDs. My task is much more broad– finding organizations that support NDs, provide internships, and the small businesses that will actually drive most employment.

NeuroClastic has undertaken the task of creating a resource map that will make it possible to identify different kinds of resources of all kinds and sizes dedicated to creating more opportunity for ND employment. As this resource becomes known, more programs and businesses will be vetted and added in the rapidly-changing neurodiversity employment scene.

This interactive tool will have multiple functions. The first is provide information on resources, supports, businesses hiring, scholarships, and programs for the ND community.

For the first time, an adult or family can look and easily see what’s available nearby, if the preference is to live at home, and to know what exists in a potentially suitable field wherever they might be willing to relocate. As NDs enter the workforce at all levels, there is the opportunity for increasing understanding and inclusion between the ND and NT communities.

A problem with some of the wonderful programs that exist is that they and their knowledge tends to be proprietary, meaning that while they may have excellent experience and practices, they prefer to expand rather than share knowledge. For nonprofits willing to become partnered with these existing organizations, they can see where and who they are.

Other nonprofits or businesses wanting their own identity will be able to find each other and businesses willing to share experience, and they can learn effective practices, group together to get training if needed. Hopefully, this can encourage much needed new startups all over the US. There can be models of all kinds of programs that support potential employees and employers that hire NDs.

A third and vital use of this information is that it can be an open source for research that will drive development and public policy, to understand the drivers and factors underlying success for ND employment.

This macro level of vision for the development of ND employment is critical to the growth of the field with overall planning and direction instead of in a piecemeal and less effective way.

This blog is a request for help and information. If you want to support the creation of this website, please contribute to the non-profit. It’s tax deductible and this resource website will be an enormous support to the neurodiverse community.

You can invest in this resource by clicking here.

Also, if you know of local resources, programs, businesses, or anything related to neurodiversity employment, please comment or message me. As effective a researcher as I am, I’m only going to scratch the surface because I can’t find everything in the US.

While other organizations can make lists of larger businesses public, our database will encompass much more. As many programs or businesses or useful employment sites that benefit NDs as possible will need to be on this website.

 

2 Comments

  1. Aspiritech is in my hometown. It’s a good place but I never saw myself become an employee there. I wanted a career working with words and images, not software testing. Companies seem to think autistic people would only want jobs in tech, doing route testing and coding, but there are autistics out there who want creatively-focused jobs too!

    1. You’re absolutely right. The point of developing employment opportunities is to find jobs for people with all kinds of skills and interests, not just IT, and at all skill levels, not just the top and the bottom. SAP and JP Morgan Chase did hire some people for non IT jobs through their ND programs. There’s a very limited number of jobs there, and they get lots of applications but there’s not much to lose by applying. Neurodiversity In The Workplace is in PA but they are developing relationships training employers around the country and are not just focusing on IT positions, although so far most seem to be IT companies.

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