Some of the first questions you ask yourself as a parent after an autism diagnosis are: “How will this affect my child, and what does this mean for his future?”
Many autistic adults struggle with issues of depression and anxiety due to their feelings of loneliness and their inability to find a job. Being able to live independently and finding social connections is a real issue, and the workplace gives adults on the spectrum a social outlet and a feeling of belonging.
The job search can be difficult for ASD adults. Keeping a job once one is found poses another problem. Because spectrum adults have varying issues and abilities, it can be difficult to figure out where to start looking in the job market. Many work places are not set up for the social and emotional problems that spectrum adults face.
There are a few up-and-coming companies that gear themselves to the needs of autistic adults. They understand the value of the autistic mind as a great resource.
This Dutch-based firm set up shop in Canada in 2013 and is now a nationwide company. Their employees are mainly on the autism spectrum and work as business consultants with tasks of software testing and data entry.
Specialisterne, translated from Dutch as The Specialists, operates numerous locations around the world, including Denmark, Brazil, Iceland, Australia, and the U.S. The company’s founder, Thorkil Sonne, began thinking about building an autism-friendly work environment when his son was diagnosed. His goal was to help the world understand the great potential of autistic people.
Those people interested in working for a Specialisterne company begin by filling out a questionnaire online and submitting a resume. There is a pre-employment workshop, using STEM tools, to help assimilate new workers to the work environment. They try hard to focus on each individual’s abilities and skill sets to place them in jobs at which they will excel. Their website is also a great recruitment resource.
Extraordinary Ventures, or EV, a company based out of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, believes that the work environment should be suited to its employee’s needs. The company was founded by Gregg Ireland after his son was diagnosed with autism. Ireland saw that, if given the right environment, his son could be a productive worker, even though he exhibited challenging behaviors and had trouble communicating.
The work ethic is built around structure and familiarity. Similar company models are cropping up in cities like New York, Chicago, and Northern California. The job ventures include delivery services, office services, bus detailing, dog walking, and a candle making business.
This non-profit organization is partly funded by grants, with the majority coming from the businesses themselves. The online application is easy to fill out, but they do look for any volunteer work in the applicant’s history.
This company, based in Highland Park, Illinois, harnesses the unique abilities of the high functioning autistic mind. They hire ASD adults for outsourced computer software testing, utilizing the attention-to-detail and affinity for repetitive tasks that many autistic adults exhibit.
They believe that workers should feel comfortable in the workplace and should not have to adhere to the social demands of the typical world. Their clients include: BOSE, Synvata, Eagle Metals, IDEXX Laboratories, and LUNA. Aspiritech looks for some college work experience in its applicants, though it is not required.
They offer opportunities to work onsite at a company or within the Highland Park office. Training is provided at no cost and includes an introduction to quality assurance and on-the-job training. Much of the work is on a part-time basis, but as their client list grows, many employees have the option to increase their hours.
It can be a challenge for adults on the spectrum to find employment that works. Part of the battle is finding a place to fit in and feel understood. The companies above are setting a new bar, inspiring other companies around the world to develop work models that work for ASD adults.