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Can autism people work?

Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental condition that impacts how people communicate, interact, behave, and learn. Autism exists on a spectrum, meaning it affects each individual differently. Some autistic people may require significant support while others can live independently. A common misconception is that autistic individuals are unable to work. However, with the right supports in place, many people on the autism spectrum can and do succeed in a wide variety of careers.

Can Autistic People Work?

Yes, absolutely! With the right accommodations, autistic individuals can thrive in many work settings. According to a study by the organization Drexel University, the vast majority (88%) of autistic adults are considered capable of working. However, autism unemployment rates remain high, with some estimates suggesting up to 80% of autistic adults are unemployed or underemployed.

While autism presents challenges, it can also be associated with strengths that lend themselves well to certain careers. Many autistic individuals excel in fields that involve systems, patterns, numbers, or technology. Attention to detail, reliability, honest and loyal work ethic are also commonly cited strengths.

What Kinds of Jobs Can Autistic People Do?

Autistic employees can succeed and make valuable contributions across diverse industries and roles. Some careers that tend to be a good fit for autistic strengths include:

  • Software developer or programmer
  • Computer systems analyst
  • Accountant
  • Statistician
  • Graphic designer
  • Photographer
  • Lab technician
  • Engineer
  • IT support specialist
  • Data entry clerk
  • Librarian
  • Assembler or factory worker
  • Artist

The most important factor is finding a role that aligns with an individual’s unique interests, strengths, and support needs. With the right fit and workplace accommodations, autistic employees can thrive in diverse settings.

What Accommodations Help Autistic Employees?

Making appropriate accommodations is key to creating an accessible workplace. Accommodations help employees manage autism-related challenges and capitalize on strengths. Examples of workplace accommodations can include:

  • Sensory adjustments – minimizing loud noises, bright lights, strong smells, or other stimuli that may be distracting or overwhelming.
  • Clear expectations – providing written job instructions, expectations, and feedback.
  • Organization supports – using tools like schedules, checklists, or task lists to stay organized.
  • Regular breaks – allowing short breaks to recharge when overloaded.
  • Quiet workspaces – access to quiet rooms or private work areas when needed.
  • Communication aids – allowing written or visual formats for communicating vs. overwhelming verbal interactions.
  • Social coaching – helping navigate social aspects of the workplace.
  • Modified training – adjusting how job skills are taught and allowing extra time to practice new tasks.

Accommodations should be tailored to each individual and may evolve over time as needs change. Employers and employees should collaborate to find the right support solutions.

How Can Employers Support Autistic Employees?

There are many steps employers can take to create an inclusive environment for autistic employees. Some best practices include:

  • Providing autism education and training to all employees to build understanding.
  • Partnering with the autistic employee to understand needs and find appropriate accommodations.
  • Offering flexibility in scheduling when possible.
  • Creating physical workspaces that account for sensory needs.
  • Using visual supports like schedules, written instructions, etc.
  • Maintaining open communication and providing regular feedback.
  • Educating colleagues on how to interact and communicate effectively.
  • Ensuring autistic employees have quiet spaces to retreat to when overloaded.
  • Adjusting training and onboarding approaches as needed.
  • Focusing on harnassing the individual’s strengths.

With understanding and inclusion, employers can enable autistic employees to maximize their potential and make meaningful contributions.

What Strategies Help Autistic People Find and Maintain Employment?

There are many proactive steps autistic individuals can take to find rewarding work opportunities and succeed in the workplace:

  • Leverage strengths and special interests when choosing a career path.
  • Pursue further education or vocational training to develop relevant skills.
  • Practice workplace communications and social situations.
  • Learn strategies for self-regulation and coping with sensory input.
  • Research companies recognized for inclusive hiring and autism employment.
  • Disclose autism to employers and request reasonable accommodations.
  • Seek out a workplace mentor or buddy.
  • Ask for regular feedback to continue improving.
  • Utilize visual supports like schedules, written lists, etc.
  • Take quiet breaks as needed to refocus.

Finding employment may take time. But with preparation, perseverance, and the right environment, autistic individuals can find fulfilling long-term work.

What Social Skills Help Autistic People Succeed at Work?

Navigating workplace social dynamics can be challenging for autistic individuals. Some key social skills that aid success on the job include:

  • Communication – Making eye contact, interpreting body language, engaging in small talk, asking for help clearly.
  • Teamwork – Collaborating with colleagues, participating in meetings, compromising when needed.
  • Social etiquette – Understanding workplace norms for dress, grooming, etiquette.
  • Building connections – Introducing oneself, networking, interacting positively with colleagues.
  • Problem-solving – Addressing conflicts constructively, understanding different perspectives.
  • Time management – Arriving on time, completing tasks efficiently, tracking assignments.

These skills can be challenging but can be developed with practice, social skills training, or workplace supports like mentors or buddies.

How Can Autistic Individuals Prepare for the Workplace?

Preparing for the demands of the workplace while still in school can make the transition to employment smoother. Helpful tips include:

  • Take vocational assessments to identify good career matches.
  • Complete internships or apprenticeships for hands-on experience.
  • Take academic courses that align with career interests.
  • Participate in volunteer work or clubs related to aptitudes.
  • Learn to use public transportation to get to work independently.
  • Develop skills like interviewing, workplace communication, time management.
  • Build social and self-advocacy abilities.

Early career exposure and skills development allows autistic students to identify strengths and get a head start on navigating the working world.

What Should You Do If Losing or Struggling with a Job Due to Autism?

If autism-related challenges are interfering with job performance, it’s important to be proactive. Steps to take include:

  • Notify your employer and request reasonable accommodations.
  • Connect with a vocational counselor for guidance navigating the situation.
  • Join an autism support group to learn from others’ experiences.
  • Identify struggles and brainstorm potential solutions.
  • Ask your employer for a workplace mentor or buddy for support.
  • Request adjustments like different duties or more training.
  • Look into additional workplace therapies like social skills or communications training.
  • If issues persist, consider a new work environment better suited to needs.

Don’t struggle alone. Seek assistance from your employer, outside services, therapists, and support groups. With the right help, employment challenges can often be overcome.

How Can Parents and Caregivers Help an Autistic Adult Prepare for Work?

Parents and caregivers play a pivotal role in readying an autistic teen or young adult for employment. Strategies include:

  • Working with schools on transition planning starting at age 14.
  • Encouraging pursuits of interests that may lead to career opportunities.
  • Ensuring completion of high school education or specialized job training programs.
  • Helping build independent living skills crucial for the workplace.
  • Role playing workplace scenarios to practice social interactions.
  • Connecting youth with vocational counseling and career guidance resources.
  • Assisting in the job search and interview process.
  • Promoting self-advocacy skills in requesting accommodations.
  • Collaborating with employers on support strategies.
  • Starting volunteering or internships to build skills and experience.

With proactive preparation, parents and caregivers can empower autistic youth to successfully transition to rewarding careers.


Autistic individuals have much to contribute to the workforce when given the proper opportunities and supports. While autism presents challenges, with the right job fit and accommodations most can find success and satisfaction in employment. Employers must be willing to make adjustments and provide an inclusive environment. Autistic employees can thrive when focused on utilizing their unique strengths and talents. With preparation and persistence, meaningful and fulfilling long-term careers are certainly within reach.