AUTISM AND EMPLOYMENT

“The notion that some people produce more (or less) for the economy and are, therefore, more (or less) valuable — is ableism,” wrote Kristin Garrity Sekerci and Azza Altiraifi in a 2008 article for Al Jazeera. Our inherent worth as a human should not be tied to the expectations of productivity and self-reliance that are embedded in our (American) dominant (white and ableist) culture. Society often use markers, such as employment and independent living, as measures of success of an individual and not as evidence of what supports have been missing within an ableist construct. Many Autistic individuals work full-time jobs, many work part-time, some are not able to work at all. For many, much of this is dependent on the employer and the supports that are available, not on their autism. However, for some, their autism does prevent them from having employment, and this does not make them any less valuable. 

Because society (and places of employment) is/are structured for the ways most neurotypical people communicate, think, move, act, and sense, the anxiety and exhaustion that an Autistic person can experience from masking* can interfere with their ability to acquire and maintain employment. Each year, approximately 50,000 people with ASD turn 18. That transition to adulthood usually comes with the aging-out of support services. So while the vast majority of structures and systems are already not accepting and accommodating, there are also limited support options for neruodivergent people to access to help them navigate it. 

 

The A.J. Drexel Institute has published research showing that young adults with autism have the lowest rates of employment and independent living when compared to their peers with other disabilities. While it is important to note this comparison, as a means of identifying and addressing barriers that Autistic individuals experience, it is also important to understand that these two measures of "success" are rooted in ableism and white supremacy culture. "The more we expose white supremacist ideology and the ways in which it is enmeshed and interlaced with ableism, the more solidarity we build with those who join in a movement for change".

We must reconstruct and reframe the ableist structures, systems, and beliefs that makes us differentiate within humanity into ones that accept, accommodate, and allow for nuerodiversity and welcome the myriad of ways in which people exist, contribute, and find joy. 

*"Autistic masking (also referred to in the literature as camouflaging,1 compensation,2 and most recently “adaptive morphing”3) is the conscious or unconscious suppression of natural responses and adoption of alternatives across a range of domains including social interaction, sensory experience, cognition, movement, and behavior".