By | August 19, 2016

A part of the conversation about helping those with autism often gets overlooked. What happens to children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) when they grow up? Do they find good-paying jobs, or do they rely solely on government programs for living expenses? These questions pull at the heartstrings of society, and you need to understand a few things about those with autism and their ability to enter the workforce.


After Childhood, Those With Autism…

According to The New York Times, more than 500,000 children with autism will become adults in the next decade. Unfortunately, many federally mandated programs have limitations that will expire when these young people reach age 21.

Unlike the well-funded programs under the U.S. Department of Education, the young people with ASDs will fall into state-by-state programs. Some of these programs may not even cover basic preventative or rehabilitative services, especially in states that refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Now, the current outlook for those with ASDs is still OK if caregivers, often parents, can get help in finding the right services and care. But, the questions brought up at the beginning of this post become even more important when thinking about what happens when parents or other caregivers pass away. However, more adults with autism are entering the workforce, reports Spectrum News, and that will have a profound impact on those with ASDs.


What’s Happening and Driving the Trend?

The majority of those with ASDs, 55 percent, do not find employment in the six years after high school, but 74 percent of adults with any intellectual disability do get work experience. Clearly, statistics suggest those with autism were more disadvantaged in finding jobs in society. However, this notion is being repelled as more companies start looking to those with ASDs as “an untapped resource” in the workforce.

While empathy surely plays a part in more employers looking to hire those with autism, very real facts support hiring those with ASDs as a positive change for a company. According to the Chicago Tribune, the turnover rate in hiring those with ASDs is less than 10 percent. But, the true importance of this fact derives from comparing it to the national turnover rate of 16.4 percent, reports Compdata Surveys.

By extrapolating this information, the conclusion can be made that more companies are looking to cut costs where possible. In fact, companies can virtually eliminate the hiring costs for 6.4 percent of new hires by simply hiring more adults with autism. Additionally, more programs and training opportunities are being created to help those with ASDs get the skills necessary to enter the workforce.


Impact of Working Opportunities on Those With Autism

When more adults with ASDs have the opportunity, the benefits of their physical and mental health expand. Working provides mental and physical stimulation. Some positions may enable adults with ASDs to get more physical activity, and other positions may take advantage of the honed, unique skill sets of those with ASDs.

For example, those with autism who have extraordinary mathematical skills may do well in accounting or financial management positions.

For some with ASDs, the working opportunities represent a significant shift in how they view their lives.

Founder and CEO of AutonomyWorks David Friedman employs his 21-year-old son who lives with the trials and tribulations of autism. Since graduating from high school, Friedman’s son expressed continuing nostalgia, “looking back” upon high school so much it interfered with his ability to live. However, the opportunity to work has resulted in a more forward-looking mindset. In fact, Friedman’s son has started taking keyboarding classes and requesting additional hours.

Having more working opportunities for those with ASDs also represents a significant impact on the financial burden of caring for those with ASDs. These young adults with autism or ASDs can take advantage of access to health insurance and benefits.

In fact, under the ACA’s list of essential health benefits, care for adults with ASDs cannot be limited or subject to previous pre-existing condition stipulations, reports Autism Speaks. In other words, adults with ASDs who enter the workforce can fulfill their obligation to probationary periods, enroll in group insurance plans through the employer, and immediately begin taking advantage of health coverage. Essentially, this eliminates much of the need for state-funded programs for treatment and therapies of ASDs.

Employed adults who live with autism or an ASD can also have the benefit of paying for many of their possessions or shelter, reducing the stresses on community living centers and therapeutic communities. Unfortunately, many of these positions do pay minimum wage, but Microsoft and major companies stand out by offering employees, regardless of the existence of an ASD, up to $12 per hour.


What Does It Mean to You?

A previous post, “How to Reduce the Need for Antipsychotics Among Your Clients,” explained how teaching skills to clients for job placement can reduce the need for antipsychotic medications for the treatment of intellectual and development disabilities. But, some may believe the job opportunities for those with autism or ASDs are nonexistent or horribly low-paying. In reality, working opportunities for those with ASDs do often go overlooked. However, you have the ability to change that problem.

Take a moment to think about how many clients with autism or ASDs you serve. Now, think about the costs and individual tasks associated with running your organization. Are you taking advantage of the untapped potential of those you serve by providing employment or training to prepare them for employment? If so, you are helping to empower those with intellectual and developmental disabilities to take an active role in society and experience the joys and rewards of having a job.

Many of us take the notion of going to work for granted, but to those with disabilities, the idea of going to work is one of the greatest, most rewarding experiences to have in a world where just living is an uphill battle. Do not contribute to the problem; be part of the solution.

Jason Vanover

Working in health care since 2005, Jason's body of experience encompasses dozens of care settings, including Senior care, psychiatric facilities, nonprofit health service centers, group homes for those with developmental disabilities and beyond. Jason understands the need to tailor his skills to each setting to encourage the best treatment outcomes and promote an inclusive, healing environment.

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