The value of part-time employment and autistic adults
Employment is an area of great concern for adults on the autism spectrum. While some companies have targeted employees with autism for various openings, others continue to cling to stereotypes and limiting beliefs from the past. Sometimes the solutions to a problem are literally right in front of us, but for countless reasons we cannot see them. Such is the case with many employers who are unable to fill vacancies because they have difficulty finding qualified workers. There are several contributing factors, when combined, that make this a thorny issue for businesses. First, many of the really difficult jobs to fill are part-time positions with no benefits. This is an important point of distinction that is often overlooked when employment statistics are reported by state and federal agencies. Additionally, those same positions are often entry-level, offering little to no opportunity for career advancement. The reality is that there is a great deal of talent, but very little interest from potential employees.
The robust economy is frequently identified as the reason for the skilled employee shortage. To some extent, this is true, but it doesn’t explain why those positions are available even when the job market slows. This scenario seems tailor-made for adults with autism for a number of reasons. The fact that there are a number of part-time vacancies available is significant as these are for adults on the autism spectrum. In many cases, adults with autism are only able to work part-time due to physical or financial restrictions. Those who receive Social Security and Medicaid can earn additional income up to a certain limit without jeopardizing those benefits. The idea of earning extra money is appealing to some people with autism who are looking to lead an independent lifestyle. Maintaining government benefits is an integral part of the equation that offers flexibility and revenue. Additionally, part-time employment is often more suitable for autistic adults due to secondary physical conditions that prevent full-time work.
Managing underlying medical conditions is an accepted part of life for some people with autism. Time-consuming obligations such as foot therapy appointments, mental health counseling, regular doctor visits regarding digestive issues, and coping with myriad sensory challenges are all common. The truth is that many autistic adults simply cannot work full time due to the time it takes to manage health problems. The timing couldn’t be better for both adults on the spectrum and companies looking to fill part-time positions. This is the best win-win for everyone involved, as companies can fill entry-level positions that are difficult to place and often repetitive. On the other hand, this is a legitimate opportunity to constructively address the dismal unemployment rate among autistic adults, which is currently hovering around 80%.
One could argue that this is highly speculative, as there is simply not a great deal of evidence to support this theory. However, the current course we are on is clearly not working, at least for the majority of autistic adults. Society is not the shining example of inclusion when we have people with autism who are incredibly talented and not participating in the job market. Some modifications within the workplace will be necessary, but such adaptations have proven extremely successful in the past. Additionally, long-term goals are encouraging as employers learn more about the nuances of autism and the unique skills they offer. For companies looking to invest in training and a supportive environment for autistic workers, the result can be very rewarding. Sometimes solutions to seemingly monumental problems are right in front of us, waiting for an invitation.