Factors for Successful Employment of Individuals on the Autism Spectrum

05 May 2020

Factors for Successful Employment of Individuals on the Autism Spectrum

More than 205,000 people are on the autism spectrum in Australia and an estimated 34% are unemployed which is more than three times the rate for people with disability (10.3%) and almost eight times the rate of people without disability (4.6%).

The need to support individuals on the autism spectrum gain and maintain employment is widely recognised. To date, most workplace strategies have been directed at training autistic employees overcome their social and communication difficulties. However, environmental factors are an essential component in understanding the complex interactions and possible success factors that facilitate workplace participation for autistic individuals. 

In their paper, Dr Melissa Scott and colleagues identify three key factors for successful employment from the viewpoints of adults on the autism spectrum and employers.

First, autistic employees view inclusiveness as the most important facilitator of successful employment. This means that when employees are made to feel included in the workplace, whereby their talents and skills valued and they are actively involved in workplace decisions, their dedication to work is reinforced

Employers on the other hand view having external support and guidance from disability employment organisations, in tasks such as modification of the work environment, job adjustments, and behaviour management, as the most important facilitator of successful employment for autistic individuals.

Second, both autistic employees and employers view work productivity as another key facilitator. However, their understanding of job expectations required to achieve productivity goals differs.

Autistic employees expect responsibility, career advancement, fair pay, and job tasks to match their skills and abilities. Employers, on the other hand, expect hard work, loyalty, a minimum length of stay, and productivity.

The authors report that it is conflicting expectations between employees and employers that result in demotivated employees, poor work performance, stress, and increased employee turnover. 

Finally, autistic employees and employers both consider job retention as a key factor in successful employment. However, the two groups differ in their approach to ensure job retention.

Employees on the autism spectrum require a supportive, structured, and task-adapted work environment to perform their job successfully and maintain employment. In contrast, employers believe that once the opportunity to work is provided, it is the employees' responsibility to meet the productivity requirements to maintain their job.

In summary, the viewpoints between employers and employees on the autism spectrum on factors for successful employment vary significantly. This difference in view may explain why gaining and maintaining employment for individuals on the autism spectrum is a challenge. Although both employers and employee appear committed to the employment process, the difference in their understanding regarding the type of workplace support required, job expectations, and productivity requirements continues to hinder successful employment.

The full article can be accessed here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26462234