Employment: The Autism Advantage
A guest post by Amir Tal, PhD
The General Assembly of the United Nations designated April 2nd as World Autism Awareness Day. Their decision was driven by the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006), which states children and adults with disabilities should “enjoy a full and decent life, in conditions which ensure dignity, promote self-reliance and facilitate the person’s active participation in the community, as well as the full enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with other persons”.
The 2015 World Autism Awareness Day theme chosen is “Employment: The Autism Advantage.” People with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), their families, employers and society as a whole benefits from employment inclusion of people with ASD.
Employment plays a central role in the lives for most adults in western world, including those with ASD. Holding a job not only affords increased economic resources but also enhances personal activity, sense of identity and self-worth, social inclusion, and physical and mental health. Unfortunately, despite decades-old employment programs for people with ASD, research indicates that 65-80% of adults with ASD (including individuals who are considered to be higher functioning) are unemployed. They’re also likely to experience underemployment, change jobs frequently, have difficulty adjusting to new job settings and gain make less money than their peers.
Our mission is to convey to the business world that hiring, retaining and promoting workers with ASD brings greater benefits beyond just filling an open job. Research driven data indicates that workers with ASD can contribute to the business’s overall competitiveness with increased productivity, greater market share and lower job turnover rates. Employers’ testimonies indicate that qualified workers with ASD may demonstrate high skills in some or all of the following domains:
- attention to detail and intense focus
- Problem-solving skills
- High levels of concentration
- Reliability and loyalty
- Technical ability and specialist skills and interests such as in IT
- Detailed factual knowledge and an excellent memory retention
- Abilities to cope and overcome challenges
Furthermore, businesses that provide equal opportunities and job accommodations to people with ASD usually report reduced employee turnover, increased employee loyalty, and increased morale and productivity of other employees. Since people with disabilities (including people with ASD) represent a market for goods and services with more than $200 Billion in discretionary income and of an estimated $1 Trillion in aggregate income, hiring people with ASD may provide businesses an inside advantage to an expanded customer base. In the same vein, people with ASD and their families tend to prioritize businesses that promote accessibility and equal opportunities for workers and costumers with ASD. Finally, surveys indicate that hiring workers with ASD may increase the business brand image with consumers in general.