I worked hard, carrying 2x4s, plywood, tearing roofs off of houses, framing. But no matter how hard I worked, I had to accept by the end of the summer that I am not cut out for carpentry.
In order to be a good carpenter, you have to be able to visualize the blueprints and “see” the way the building needs to be laid out.
I could never get the hang of it.
If you stuck me in a chemistry lab and told me to run experiments, I’d also be a miserable failure.
But I love writing and working with people as a professional counselor.
Every single person is different: one person makes a great carpenter; another makes a great counselor.
There a couple of challenges people on the autism spectrum face. First, autism can make social interactions very difficult. Decision making and deadlines can also be difficult. Multiply all that with sensory sensitivities, and the workplace can be fairly challenging. Additionally, society has not yet come to terms with their own lack of awareness and accommodations for people on the autism spectrum.
Autism Employment Statistics
Per the Aspgergers support network and Brenda Miles Smith, only 12 % of people with high functioning autism and Aspergers are employed full-time.
Gavin Bollard, in his Life with Aspergers post, How Does Aspergers affect Employment Prospects, conducted a survey of 90 Aspie readers. Of those respondents, 48% were employed in either full-time or part time positions.
With ongoing self-education and awareness, I believe people on the spectrum can continue to make headways into career fields.
Develop An Understanding Of What Careers Are Best Suited For the Autism Spectrum
Dr. Temple Grandin, a professor with autism, compiled the following list of bad and good jobs for people on the autism spectrum.
The following tables are quoted, verbatim, from her article.
Table 1 Bad Jobs for People with High Functioning Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome: Jobs that require high demands on short-term working memory
- Cashier — making change quickly puts too much demand on short-term working memory
- Short order cook — Have to keep track of many orders and cook many different things at the same time
- Waitress — Especially difficult if have to keep track of many different tables
- Casino dealer — Too many things to keep track of
- Taxi dispatcher — Too many things to keep track of
- Taking oral dictation — Difficult due to auditory processing problems
- Airline ticket agent — Deal with angry people when flights are cancelled
- Future market trader — Totally impossible
- Air traffic controller — Information overload and stress
- Receptionist and telephone operator — Would have problems when the switch board got busy
Table 2 Good Jobs for Visual Thinkers
- Computer programming — Wide-open field with many jobs available especially in industrial automation, software design, business computers, communications and network systems
- Drafting — Engineering drawings and computer aided drafting. This job can offer many opportunities. Drafting is an excellent portal of entry for many interesting technical jobs. I know people who started out at a company doing drafting and then moved into designing and laying out entire factories. To become really skilled at drafting, one needs to learn how to draw by hand first. I have observed that most of the people who draw beautiful drawings on a computer learned to draw by hand first. People who never learn to draw by hand first tend to leave important details out of their drawings.
- Commercial art — Advertising and magazine layout can be done as freelance work
- Photography — Still and video, TV cameraman can be done as freelance work
- Equipment designing — Many industries, often a person starts as a draftsman and then moves into designing factory equipment
- Animal trainer or veterinary technician — Dog obedience trainer, behavior problem consultant
- Automobile mechanic — Can visualize how the entire car works
- Computer-troubleshooter and repair — Can visualize problems in computers and networks
- Small appliance and lawnmower repair — Can make a nice local business
- Handcrafts of many different types such as wood carving, jewelry making, ceramics, etc.
- Laboratory technician — Who modifies and builds specialized lab equipment
- Web page design — Find a good niche market can be done as freelance work
- Building trades — Carpenter or welder. These jobs make good use of visual skills but some people will not be able to do them well due to motor and coordination problems.
- Video game designer — Stay out of this field. Jobs are scarce and the field is overcrowded. There are many more jobs in industrial, communications business and software design computer programming. Another bad thing about this job is exposure to violent images.
- Computer animation — Visual thinkers would be very good at this field, but there is more competition in this field than in business or industrial computer programming. Businesses are recruiting immigrants from overseas because there is a shortage of good programmers in business and industrial fields.
- Building maintenance — Fixes broken pipes, windows and other things in an apartment complex, hotel or office building
- Factory maintenance — Repairs and fixes factory equipment
Table 3 Good Jobs for Non-Visual Thinkers: Those who are good at math, music or facts
- Accounting — Get very good in a specialized field such as income taxes
- Library science — reference librarian. Help people find information in the library or on the Internet.
- Computer programming — Less visual types can be done as freelance work
- Engineering — Electrical, electronic and chemical engineering
- Journalist — Very accurate facts, can be done as freelance
- Copy editor — Corrects manuscripts. Many people freelance for larger publishers
- Taxi driver — Knows where every street is
- Inventory control — Keeps track of merchandise stocked in a store
- Tuning pianos and other musical instruments, can be done as freelance work
- Laboratory technician — Running laboratory equipment
- Bank Teller — Very accurate money counting, much less demand on short-term working memory than a busy cashier who mostly makes change quickly
- Clerk and filing jobs — knows where every file is
- Telemarketing — Get to repeat the same thing over and over, selling on the telephone. Noisy environment may be a problem. Telephone sales avoids many social problems.
- Statistician — Work in many different fields such as research, census bureau, industrial quality control, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, etc.
- Physicist or mathematician — There are very few jobs in these fields. Only the very brilliant can get and keep jobs. Jobs are much more plentiful in computer programming and accounting.
Table 4 Jobs for Nonverbal People with Autism or People with Poor Verbal Skills
- Reshelving library books — Can memorize the entire numbering system and shelf locations
- Factory assembly work — Especially if the environment is quiet
- Copy shop — Running photocopies. Printing jobs should be lined up by somebody else
- Janitor jobs — Cleaning floors, toilets, windows and offices
- Restocking shelves — In many types of stores
- Recycling plant — Sorting jobs
- Warehouse — Loading trucks, stacking boxes
- Lawn and garden work — Mowing lawns and landscaping work
- Data entry — If the person has fine motor problems, this would be a bad job
- Fast food restaurant — Cleaning and cooking jobs with little demand on short-term memory
- Plant care — Water plants in a large office building
Here Are Autism Employment Resources:
Articles and Sites
Job Resources, at jobsforautism.com.
Autism Now has a great On the Job resource page.
Gavin Bollard has written a tremendous article, How Does Aspergers Affect Employment
Gavin Bollard mentions these books in the above article.
How to Find Work That Works for People with Asperger Syndrome: The Ultimate Guide for Getting People With Asperger Syndrome into the Workplace (and Keeping Them There!), by Gail Hawkins.
Developing Talents: Careers for Individuals with Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism, by Temple Grandin and Kate Duffy.
Asperger Syndrome Employment Workbook: An Employment Workbook for Adults with Asperger Syndrome, by Roger N. Meyer and Tony Attwood.
I hope you enjoyed Dr. Grandin’s tables and these resources. What other autism employment tips and resources do you recommend?
Image credit: coramax / 123RF Stock Photo