Employing people with autism — are we there yet?

An article called Hiring Employees with Autism (subscription only) in the June issue of Society for Human Resource Management’s HR Magazine mentioned Easter Seals and our corporate partner CVS Caremark.

Easter Seals national director of autism services Patricia Wright is quoted in the article, explaining how popular culture and wider diagnostic tools have led to an increased awareness of autism. In terms of hiring people who have autism, Dr. Wright said, “despite the Americans with Disabilities Act, we’re not quite there yet.” She pointed out that even when a person with a disability has the same qualifications as someone without a disability, it can be more difficult for the one with a disability to get the job.

The one consistent message Easter Seals hears from families — after the initial apprehension and anxiety of learning their child has autism – is an overwhelming concern about the life-long supports their child with autism may need to be independent. Our Living with Autism Study results revealed that parents raising children with autism are very concerned about the future independence of their children. In fact, they’re far more concerned than parents of typically developing children — nearly 80 percent say they’re extremely or very concerned about their children’s independence as an adult, compared to only 32 percent of other parents. This is especially true when it comes to their financial independence, quality of life, social and inter-personal connections, and employment and housing opportunities.

Easter Seals is using the study results to raise awareness of and advocate for the life-long services millions of families living with autism desperately need — including school-to-work transitions, employment support, residential and community support, and financial planning.

We’ve also taken action to address this need through participation in Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism (AFAA). AFAA is a national consortium seeking to create meaningful futures for adults with autism that include homes, jobs, recreation, friends and supportive communities. This unique national consortium has united to set national priorities for adults on the autism spectrum and to transform public policy and programming for teens and adults with autism spectrum disorders.

In January, AAFA held a think tank. Nationally recognized experts in a variety of fields (e.g., individuals with autism, program operators, university professors, public policy authorities and specialists from both the public and private sectors) met to begin addressing the issue of autism and adulthood. The summary report from that think tank is available at the AFAA web site.

Few challenges are easy, and as Patricia said, we certainly have a long way to go. But to end on a positive note check out these stories of hope — six of them are about adults with autism.


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  5. Patricia Wright Says:

    Morgan – You are so right! I am sure there are lots of adults with autism employed as engineers. However, the employment rate for individuals with autism continues to be abysmal. I wish that everyone felt the same way as you in understanding that individuals with autism are capable – and that we were “there” for all adults on the spectrum.

  6. Morgan Landry Says:

    Yes, we’re there . . . they’re called engineers.

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