Autism and Employment
One of our dreams for the Allergy Brothers was to provide a paid internship programme for young, neurodiverse people. Honestly, it felt like putting the cart before the horse; providing a programme and then fitting young people to it. I think that we should really be finding the vocations of neurodiverse, young people and then working out what needs to happen to make that a reality. Therefore, we are having a rethink.
The core issue, employment for neurodiverse adults, is still a pressing problem. The National Autistic Society surveyed over 2000 adults, or a person responding on their behalf, in 2016. Just 16% of adults were in full-time, paid work. Only 32% of autistic adults were in some kind of paid work, compared to 47% of disabled adults, and 80% of non-disabled adults. 40% of those surveyed had never worked. 77% of the unemployed, autistic adults said that they wanted to work. There is definitely a need for support into employment.
I can’t help thinking that the world is missing out on some impressive skills. In his 2014 book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell suggested that a person needs to undertake 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel (DSM-5) includes “restrictive and repetitive patterns of behaviours, activities or interests” present since early childhood as part of the criteria for a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. It’s irritating that a child practising the cello for hours a day is a prodigy undertaking deliberate practice, but an autistic child learning about underground railway systems is seen as disordered. I think a more positive way of looking at “special interests” is as deliberate practice. Let’s get autistic experts working in our community!
Luckily, a team of people are organically forming to try to make this dream a reality. I am really pleased to be part of this. Our first step is to find out what is already available so I am putting a new page on this website with a list of resources as we discover them. Please share any useful resources in the comments too.