Challenges Autistic Adults Face at Work and How Employers Can Help

There are approximately 5.5 million autistic adults in the United States according to the CDC. Autism is a lifelong condition, but it does not need to stop these individuals from achieving their dreams and living a normal life. Many autistic adults want to work, but they can also have unique challenges and difficulties as they interview and hold a job or career. According to a study done by Harvard Business School, “their intellectual horsepower is quite high.” It allows them to go to college and work, but still 85% of autistic adults don’t have a job. There are many ways that employers can help in overcoming these challenges and helping autistic individuals earn employment and maintain that job.

Interview Process

Getting through the interview process can be especially intimidating for autistic adults. Most importantly, an interviewer should ask beforehand if there are any accommodations that can or need to be made for the interview. This sets the stage for the most comfortable situation. Autistic adults sometimes face communication difficulties and social unease, which can make it hard for them to answer questions clearly. But, if the interviewer is patient, polite, and asks questions in a clear and straightforward way, it can ease their nervousness, and allow them to think through responses. 

group of co-workers talking at a desk

Communication at Work

Communication can be a big problem for autistic adults because sometimes they are not able to make proper sentences or they speak in a repetitive manner. They also might not be able to understand what they are supposed to do and their duties. According to Janine Booth who is the co-Chair of the TUC Disabled Workers, “Autistic workers may preferwritten or visual communication.” By simply providing various forms of communication, employers can open the lines of communication and understanding and clearly get the information across.

Meeting Deadlines at Work

Organizing work and making sure to meet the deadlines can be daunting for autistic adults. There might be some tasks in which they need more time in comparison to other people. If the employer adjusts the schedule according to their pace and gives them a little extra time, it can really take off some pressure. This flexibility can lead to more productivity in the long run.

Social Interaction

It can be tough for autistic adults to get socially involved, including in a workplace environment. They might not be comfortable around many people. They can have some sensory challenges and become overwhelmed easily. It is important to provide a space and some time where they can take some minutes off to relax and reduce their stress.

Getting Judged

Many times autistic adults get judged for their actions. For example, if they are anxious and self-soothing with foot tapping or hand flapping, which is very common, other people who don’t understand may stare or laugh at them. They might also get bullied because of their actions or social interactions. It is very important that the employer provides training with information about autism to create an understanding and accepting environment. There should also be policies in place at work to avoid problems and manage any difficulties quickly as they arise. 

Two coworkers high-fiving

Creating Change in the Workplace

These are some of the daily challenges that autistic adults face, but by bringing in a few changes, we can make the workplace a more comfortable and less challenging place for autistic adults. As we work together in a variety of situations, we can help autistic adults fulfill their dreams and goals more easily. They should have the same opportunities to live the life they dream of having.


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