I see this YouTube video and I want to write about autistics and unemployment.
It’s inspiring, but here is my take after watching this: If you’re talking about unemployment of autistics, don’t talk to me about percentage rates. Don’t bring up opportunities to work. Don’t tell me about the companies that want to help. Talk to me about hiring to autistic interests, giving living wages, universal healthcare, and universal housing.
Talk to me about underemployment of autistics.
I get that autistic unemployment is a problem. But if these groups and organizations creating jobs for autistics refuse to talk about underemployment, then they’re just trading one problem for another. Underemployment is a problem for neurotypical individuals and even worse among the neurodivergent.
I continuously see capable, skilled autistics working below their strengths and education. For every person grateful that autistics are working, I have another person that’s genuinely upset that an autistic is underemployed. When qualified autistics have no opportunity to advance or play to their strengths, that track of underemployment for some autistics is far more horrifying to me than any level of unemployment.
This conversation has to move from a world of “opportunity for employment” for autistics to a strengths-based, support-based, and an advancement-oriented perspective. I want to see autistic CEOs and managers. I want to hear stories of autistic promotions. I want to hear stories of autistics that got good jobs and incomes because of their love of analytics, animals, samurai swords, or Tudor architecture.
I want to hear more stories of autistic headhunters seeking out talented autistic people. But we will never get there if neurotypical companies and communities can’t understand that from a support and strengths perspective.
Now let me be clear: I know some autistics are happy or choose to work a low-level job. I’m not a monolith — I don’t speak for every autistic person’s experience, and I will never try to. But I would rather see them doing that job with a living wage, universal healthcare, and universal housing over the way it is right now.
If I have to be that lone voice, the fly in the ointment, the bad penny that says, “No, this is wrong. Autistics have to have a stable support system and an opportunity to play to their strengths beyond just resolving unemployment and an opportunity to work,” then I will.
But I’m done watching people say autistics need to work but not talking about underemployment issues. I’m done not seeing opportunities for autistic leadership and autistic advancement.
I’m done seeing and hearing of stories that an autistic got an “opportunity to work.”
If you’re reading this, hopefully I’m not the only one, and you’re done seeing it, too.