Aspie Adulthood: The Tough Spot Between Being Unable to Work -and- Not Qualifying for Disability

Editor’s note: We use the words aspie and Asperger’s interchangeably with autistic on this site.  We want to honor the way every autistic person identifies and also ensure that we cast a wide enough net for search engines.

After my own autism diagnosis, I tapped into the autistic community through online support groups, and I was immediately astounded by the number of people experiencing this one particular part of a wide-ranging struggle.

According to an article published by The Thinking Peron’s Guide to Autism, there is a massive 85% unemployment rate among college-educated autistic adults.  I think it’s closer to 89% today.  At the same time, the general population’s unemployment rate, at all education levels, is only 3.9% as of March 2019.


Some may wonder: Why are so many “mildly” autistic adults unemployed or under-employed?

First of all…

So-called mild autism doesn’t mean one experiences autism mildly…it means YOU experience their autism mildly. You do not know how hard they may be working to mask their autistic traits and behaviors for the sake of going undetected or helping you feel more comfortable around them.

Many are unemployed or underemployed due to difficulties that stem from our ‘aspie’ traits.

Things like:

  • Lack of neurotypical social skills and social awkwardness that’s not due to lack of skills, but sometimes people just ‘judge’ based on the way we might look, or the energy we give off, or the way we sound when we talk, or because we don’t talk enough…or smile enough.  It can be hard to get, or keep, a job when you’re always doing or not doing things that cause people to not like you– basically, just being yourself. Yes, this really happens…and it sucks.
  • Then there are those who have led successful careers, but eventually experience mental burnout from decades of masking just to maintain those jobs or those who mask well enough to get the jobs but then don’t last very long and end up hopping around from job-to-job (often state-to-state) just to keep trying to support themselves. Yes, this really happens too…and it also sucks.
  • Then we have some who feel they are unemployable and don’t even realize they have earning potential because they never developed any ‘real’ skills. This sometimes stems from the early stages and rough times in school due to the same social challenges mentioned above. Yes, this definitely…sucks.
  • And, let’s not overlook the people who have been traumatized by all-of-the-above and now have a level of social anxiety that causes them to avoid human interaction as much as they can. Yes, being ‘afraid’ to answer the phone or walk into a public place alone IS real.

One prime example of what some of us go through at work everyday can be found here:

Aspie Mishaps and Misunderstandings at Work – “Do I really have to be ‘that’ literal and direct with you?”

The scenario may not seem like a huge deal in and of itself, but (if you have a minute to read it) imagine going through something similar every day at every job and for 10, 15, 20 years.

Why don’t you just get a remote job you can work from home?

-Says everyone who acts like it should be the obvious answer

When I was nearing the end of my own rope, I remember people saying things like: “Why don’t you just get a job you can work from home?  You can always just find a remote job.” And I’d be thinkingHOW!?!?! You say it like it’s so easy! Where are those jobs??

But because I’d often been made aware of how ‘rude’ it is to ask direct and clarifying questions, basically putting people on the spot when they are trying to console you with words, I kept my mask on and just agreed that I should probably look into that.

Eventually, I walked out of my last 9-5 (unplanned/cold-turkey) and vowed NEVER to do it again. After several bouts with suicide due to mental exhaustion, lack of support, beating myself up for not being able to conform to the rest of society, and not understanding why it was so hard for me, I decided that fully-remote work or self-employment was it for me.

All this while my friends and family would shake their heads at how ridiculous it was that I was acting like victim of normal everyday life.

So, I kept quiet and went looking for that remote job. And I’d love to tell you that two weeks later, I found it on Monster or Indeed job search dot coms and lived happily ever after, but that’s just not the plight of the aspie.

I nearly lost everything before literally stumbling across the right resources and learning how to earn a livable wage without having to leave my house and pretend to be someone I’m not all day.

And let me tell you…most people were trying to help me by telling me where I could find another regular job. Finding and getting jobs was never an issue for me because I was extremely good at what I did and was publicly recognized for it.

It’s hard to explain.

But when you appear ‘normal’ in the eyes of others, can have an intelligent conversation, and earn top dollar…people think your struggles are superficial no matter how well you articulate what you go through. For me, it was almost like they didn’t believe me. Some even thought it was funny.

And if I didn’t earn what I did, but still appeared to be normal and could have an intelligent conversation, then I’d just be lazy.

If you opened this article because the title resonated with you, then I’m sure you know this all too well. And while I’m not too confident any neurotypical person will ever truly understand how REAL the struggle is…I can tell you this:

Disability may not be an option, but all is not lost!

  • If you have had a previously-successful career, the remote jobs are out there!
  • If you’re good at what you do but you’re tired of driving yourself insane constantly having to interpret the meanings of facial expressions and unsaid words, the remote jobs are out there!
  • If you have had to settle for low-level, often-demeaning jobs, the remote jobs are out there!
  • If you’ve never had a ‘real’ job but you have deep knowledge related to your special interest -or- ANY topic, you can earn!
  • If you think you just don’t have any marketable skills or knowledge, I challenge you on that!

Whether it’s software engineering, software testing, freelance writing, customer service, technical support, data entry, teaching what you know– if you can comprehend this article, YOU CAN EARN.

Do NOT be discouraged.

Do NOT underestimate yourself.

Do NOT underestimate your earning potential.

Do NOT give up.

You are NOT alone.

Our community is comprised of some of the world’s most brilliant minds. I encourage you to find the gold! DIG FOR IT if you must. It’s there, I promise.

If you have questions, plan to go remote, want to share your experience or get insight from other people who work from home, check out the Remote Work Help Facebook group. It’s free and open to all.

The group is not limited to the neurodiverse, but you have a friend there– me. We regularly post featured remote job listings as well as job search help, free resources, and tips for interviewing. Post ANY questions you have on this topic, and you will get answers.

Or, you can go directly to the Remote Work Help website which has some free resources. I created this resource for exactly the reasons stated in this article– so that actually-autistic people and others struggling in similar ways could monetize their talents.

Another great resource to check out is They often have remote jobs available and their mission is to “prove that neurodiversity is a competitive advantage.”

Please Like and Share these words of encouragement. Our collective movement to clear up misconceptions, spread awareness, and get neurotypicals to be more understanding and accepting will never die, but we can also have a powerful and immediate impact on the state of our individual situations by remembering to support each Other, help and lift each Other up.

~ Until Next Time

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20 Responses

  1. This article is a bait and switch. Using a pain to clickbait an article that is really an advertisement is about as neurotypical as it gets.

    The autistic response to “the remote jobs are out there!” is the literal and direct request for names and addresses of such places. It’s cute how you demonstrate “getting it” in your windup leading to the pitch. If what you’re saying is “you can earn! if you develop the personality quality called salesmanship,” well, that’s not exactly bringing new information to the table. I don’t know what exactly you’re doing for money, and I’m definitely not in the mood to pay $10 to find out, but it seems that at least one thing you’re doing (I can only assume, for money) is clickbaiting in promotion of the idea of being more willing to sell. Salesmanship applied to salesmanship, selling people on the idea of selling, is literally the definition of a pyramid scheme. I will unsubscribe if for a second time I see it used as a platform for a smarmy curve ball pitch.

    1. Hi n8chz – This article is an acknowledgment of a wide-spread and overlooked struggle. None of the information provided is insinuating anything about selling, I’m not sure why you have that impression. Can you clarify so that we can improve the article? The original text did not include an invite to take the course, but it was added ‘by request’ (to offer some additional benefit to TheAspergian readers). The group is FREE to all and a forum to share the journey, get answers to questions, and help finding legitimate remote jobs. Actually, selling and MLM / pyramid schemes is what I teach people how to AVOID. My stance as a writer (and a human) is that I don’t spend time ranting, complaining or highlighting any struggle unless I’m offering some type of solution or help with it. Writing about the struggle only leaves people with the validation that the struggle is real…but without offering resources, how is that helping anyone? As far as what I do for money, I work the same remote jobs I teach others how to find and get them prepared to SECURE (none of which are related to selling anything). As an Aspie myself, how ridiculous would that be? Unfortunately though, it is not free to maintain a robust website and online learning center. Also, the more people that want my help, the more it takes me away from my ‘actual’ job where I earn my own money. So yes, there is a nominal fee for those who want to learn about remote jobs and get help walking through the process of finding and obtaining them. And for those who just want to ask questions and get the free information, that’s what the group is for. Community support. Hope this helps…

      1. Oh, OK. My apologies. I must admit I’m not mature enough to have the same stance as a writer/human. I readily highlight struggles, sometimes suggesting solutions, sometimes not. Indeed “solutionism” is something that tends to set off my radar, probably because of some unfortunate association of that with bright green public relations. In your five-point bulleted list I’m #4, “If you’ve never had a ‘real’ job but you have deep knowledge related to your special interest -or- ANY topic, you can earn!” A lot of underlining and explanation points throughout, maybe that came across as salesy, even though it’s not. My own aesthetic preference is understatement, but I’d consider sacrificing even that if that is what is needed to earn!. School-to-work transition was mostly a failure for me, entirely a failure if only ‘real’ work counts, certainly contingent-to-gainful transition was a total and complete failure. Of course the trend from gainful to contingent work hurts everyone including the NTs. Hopefully there are ways to reverse those trends. Until then, of course, it’s every individual for themself, so strategies to adapting to the new normal are of course welcome. The structure of the article, as I read it, proceeds from enumeration of disparities, to yes-you-can encouragement, to “I did it, so can you.” I was wrong to call it clickbait, but it’s hard not to see the structure as some kind of persuasion strategy, for the greater good, I’m sure, but for whatever reason I woke up today with some kind of mood that had me sensing the shift in tone more than the genuine desire and willingness to be helpful.

        1. Thank you n8chz, I appreciate you taking the time to have a second look. And thank you for sharing. I’m not sure what your goals are, but if you do want to see what’s out there, you are welcome to join our group (for free of course 😅). You can hang around and see what we post, and or ask questions…I welcome you and hope what’s left of your day is pleasant <3. – Cheers

    2. PS – is one specific name and web address listed in the article. They hire people on the spectrum for remote jobs in the tech field.

    3. N8chz, this is Terra, admin and founder of The Aspergian. This code was not initially in the article, and I asked Shelly to add a discount for readers, not for her sake but for the sake of our readers who may be unable to afford the full cost. I asked her to do it.

      Shelly has been with the Aspergian for a long time and is no bait-and-switch salesperson. Regardless of your mood, the Aspergian does not want or need your readership if this is the kind of response you want to invest in our articles. None of our writers are paid. We have zero income and have had a grand total of $10 in donations from two of our own unpaid writers. This is about 1/50th of the cost of keeping the site and its initiatives active. There are no ads and no “bait and switch” directives on our site.

      So, if your only comment on the 150ish articles, all ad-free and most with strong anti-capitalist and anti-establishment undertones (or glaring overtones) which have been brought to you ad-free from autistic people is to come here with the most profoundly ignorant disrespect to one of our unpaid contributors, you can keep trucking. How many people did you thank for the work they’ve done to bring this site together before you came here with your unfounded judgements? How hard are you working to put some good in the world?

      You know where the unsubscribe button is. Bye.

  2. When I meet autistics who have “taught” themselves to use the same manipulation tactics as neurotypicals, I’m just nauseated. I AM SO SICK OF AUTISTICS WHO MASK AND TRY TO BECOME NEUROTYPICAL.
    Mask now; suicide later.

    Also, autistics can easily obtain disability by visiting incompetent neurotypical mental health workers. Most mental health workers are woefully obtuse regarding autism and they tend to see everyone who is different than themselves as “bad” or defective. Go see some neurotypical counselors in the low-income mental health sector for a few months, be totally honest and your own naturally unlikable self, and they will load you up with every socalled “personality disorder” that exists in their little Destructive Sexism Manual (DSM). Then you apply for disability with a profile that makes you look like a demented serial-killer on paper, but make sure to mention in your application that you disagree with the diagnoses and you hate doctors and you think they are all stupid. Doctors are so arrogant that they’ll automatically rule anyone who doesn’t worship them “insane”.


    Of course you will never obtain real mental healthcare doing this, but relax: you were never going to get real mental healthcare anyway, because the entire field is just a big dumb sham full of NT idiots passing judgment on who they “like” or “dislike”.

    If you’re autistic, you’re much better off using your unlikability to your advantage than trying to mask in order to appear likable, which won’t work anyway.

    Autistics need to stop pretending to be neurotypicals, it’s just creepy.

    1. Hi Bluebirt! Mask now; suicide later should be COINED! I’ve never heard anyone say it, but yesssss that’s exactly what it leads to after so long. Not sure about the generalization of autistics who mask and try to become neurotypical though because many of us this for decades without knowing we are autistic. Just living through constantly trying to figure it out and ‘fix’ ourselves. Masking without even realizing it.

      Also, I’m not sure where you are but I’m in the US and for a large part of our community it’s really not easy to get disability. I e had therapist / mental health profession sales immediately dismiss my issues and even contest my diagnosis simply because I was able to hold an intelligent conversation with them. But I LOVE the write up! You’re an excellent writer! ❤️ Your last bit of advice was on point too…better off using your (so-called) unlikability to your advantage. #EmbraceIt #BeYOUtiful . Thanks for the comment 🙂

      1. Great article and your hat looks so killer, man. Much more stylish than our “fedora” crowd (they who have swallowed the many various colored “pills”).
        We should start an online selfie-pic campaign for autistic women; “Take back the fedora!”

      2. It is definitely NOT easy to get disability in any of the countries that I’ve lived in (Denmark and Australia), and I don’t think it is easy in any of the countries I’ve heard of either. I’ve struggled with employment all my life, and for many years have had no income but mostly lived off my husband’s rather modest income – which I’m shameful about, and none of us are thriving with that obviously, and it means that I can’t budget or make my own financial decision, so I feel financially helpless & powerless all the time. I currently have a casual part time job, but I’m struggling to cope with it. I haven’t applied for disability, but I’ve heard from other people with similar challenges about how demeaning, depressing and difficult a process it is, in most cases leading to rejection anyway. I’m articulate and have a high education and present as polite and intelligent, so I’m pretty sure my chance would be zero for any significant kind of support. I present fine in a structured context and as long I’m not put under pressure with tricky questions or more unstructured or subtle social demands, but as soon as there is a break or unstructured social situation (eg lunch break), I start to fall through normal social expectations

        1. Anna – I wouldn’t let what you’ve heard detour you from applying if you need it. If you’re seeing doctors/therapists for it, talk to them about it, or just apply and see what happens. The hardest part is filling out the application which is pretty extensive in most places. But after that, they are just reviewing what you submitted, and you may have to see a doctor ‘they’ assign. But there shouldn’t be anything demeaning about the process. It mostly just the waiting part that makes it hard, because people are struggling in the meantime.

  3. i beat the system at its own game by burying it in paperwork, but i’m pretty sure i only managed that because i was so manic at the time that i could honestly describe my mental state as “think three-year-old doing crystal meth and washing it down with triple espressos” and because i’m white and the child of two professionals so i had a DOCUMENTED mental health history going back to when i was 16. i also had a whole bunch of work history and a college degree. (in other words, i am an EXTRA-SPECIAL snowflake, sarcasm font set to 128 point bold.)

    most folks, regardless of actual disability/inability to work, are not going to win. for US: 70% of first-time applicants get denied, and only about 40% get it eventually. my bff almost certainly had a better case as far as not being able to work at the time we both applied imo, and iirc hers was two appeals and a lawyer. i know several people on SSDI, and i am the only one i know of who succeeded first time.

    also, even if you do win, contrary to myths, you’re going to be scraping by most likely. the average SSDI check is about $1000-1100 a month, and the max last i heard was about $2700/month.

    now i’m 45, and although i’m not precisely one of the 85%,i can’t get a job other than seasonal tax work, because a) SSDI income limits b) i do great back office but those folks basically always want full-time c) the physical side of my chronic stuff has gotten worse as i’ve gotten older d) i literally told my hiring manager “this is as neurotypical as i get deal” and she didn’t bat an eye. (for my clientele, being neurodivergent/probably autistic is frequently USEFUL.)

  4. Thank you for posting this. I’ve been out of work for so long now that I believe I am unemployable. I previously worked as a government contractor in an environmental science capacity but found I could not keep up with the constant projection of being a “normal” person. I had more or less some sort of breakdown and then of course I got laid off. After a year of taking unemployment checks I found a remote job but was let go when the contract ended abruptly. I’m 57, have no savings, no retirement, nothing. I have been looking for other remote jobs to no avail. Now I am so deeply depressed and exhausted I don’t know what to do anymore. Every day is panic and anxiety. I feel myself slipping away. I can only manage to take my dog, my emotional support animal I should say, for daily walks and care for her. My son is a college graduate and also an Aspie like myself. He recently got his own job and panics regularly about the social aspect, and he also is projecting a “normal” person. I don’t know if he will be able to continue working because in 5 months he’s already exhausted. I really wish there were some type of safety net for people like us, but at this rate i do not think there ever will be.

    1. Hi Fenris, there are lots of remote jobs available. The easy part is finding them, the hard part is actually ‘securing’ them. Resumes and job board profiles must be tailored specifically for remote jobs, which requires a bit of work to achieve. And most people don’t want to do that initial work and/or just don’t realize that it’s necessary and get frustrated (ultimately giving up) because they ‘apply’ and don’t get responses. Off the top of my head I can tell you resume writing services are always hiring remote workers. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but it’s the most reliable remote work that allows maximum flexibility that I’ve come across. Check out TalentInc jobs and see if that might be something you’re interested in.

      1. Shelly, when you say there are lots of remote jobs available, do you mean real jobs that can actually pay the bills, and do you mean for anyone globally… or just within a particular country (e.g. the US)?

        I’m nearly 50 and don’t have a successful career behind me, no prior high earnings or industry connections, not much social network, and I really can’t see I have any *marketable* AKA competitive skills, AKA things I can do not only well (I can do some things extremely well), but also fast, persistently, and under pressure.. in my experience, that’s what employers want. I do have a high education, and another education. These are not special interest related, just the direction I took as part of my attempts to make myself more employable (it didn’t work, so I now regret I didn’t choose based on interests instead).

        All of the remote job ads I’ve seen are either for experienced professionals, or they are extremely shitty and underpaid (I’ve tried that – through freelance platforms, it wasn’t worth it), and/or they are extremely hollow and/or even unethical “jobs” which I wouldn’t be able to able to find the motivation to do even if I was starving, e.g. writing articles for article factories, online marketing of some boring crap, or pyramid-like franchise schemes like Market Australia

        1. Hi Anna, there are remote jobs available globally. I am US based, but from my experience, remote jobs are usually open to people in other countries (with the exception of a few, like maybe Cuba, or areas where technology is not as advanced). Content mills don’t pay very much, I agree. Although sometimes they do provide you with the experience (time-wise) that could help better position you for the higher paying jobs. And there are many more legitimate remote jobs that can actually earn you a decent income. I know the ‘other’ gigs you are referring to as I also ran into that while searching for remote jobs myself, and I do not EVER advertise these (unless requested in the group) or give people false hopes about earnings from these. If you join the FB group and scroll the page, you’ll see the types of jobs we post there. It’s been quiet lately, but it’s all based on what people ask for. Once there, you can feel free to shoot me an email or inbox and tell me a little more about what ‘can’ do well and/or what you are hoping to find. I’d be happy to chat with you about it and explore possibilities.

    1. The links situation is probably related more to the passage of time, article is from 4 years ago, than to the end of the employment problem for we autistic people.

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