As you go about your week, going to work or going out on the weekends, how many fingers would it take you to count how many times you saw an autistic individual in a working environment?
Every person on the spectrum is unique, just like every neurotypical person is unique, so it can be hard to know how many neurodivergent workers there are in your communities. However, keeping in mind that the rate of autism diagnosis has risen exponentially, one might wonder what happens to autistic individuals once they gain their independence and live on their own?
One would assume that the next step towards gaining full independence would be to get a job, which is not an incorrect assumption. Unfortunately though, due to the lack of public knowledge around autism, many autistic individuals around the world are being overlooked for work.
Autism employment in Canada
For example, a recent report focusing on autistic employment in Canada reveals many companies are looking to hire people living abroad to close the talent gap instead of looking at an underutilized group of autistic people already living in the country.
According to the report by Deloitte Canada in collaboration with Auticon, an international consulting firm that exclusively hires those on the spectrum, there are many hurdles autistic individuals have to jump in order to gain and hold on to employment.
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The report shows 33% of autistic adults reported being employed in 2017, compared to 14% in 2012. However, the numbers continue to pale in comparison to the 80% employment rate of adults without a disability.
The study also revealed, for Canadian workers with autism, just 2% have been in their current position for more than five years. Most (47%) responded with one or two years, and 29% had been in their current roles for three to five years.
Lack of understanding among employers
Roland Labhun, a Partner with Deloitte Canada, told Global News Canada about the lack of awareness that nine out of ten autistic individuals have “high functioning autism” and many have major capabilities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Labhun also stated that these STEM fields always have high demand for workers.
Labhun mentioned that a big part of the recruitment process that fails people on the spectrum is interviews: “Employees found themselves just absolutely frightened by the interview process.”
This is because autistic individuals often find it difficult to pick up on social cues, making interacting with strangers at important moments, such as an interview, highly stressful.
David Maloney, an autistic individual with asperger’s syndrome, told Global News Canada about previous employment: “The lack of understanding on the part of the retail employers that I was working for sort of led to workplace issues.”
Maloney, who has now proudly worked for supportive employer CIBC bank for the past 15 years, is happy he is able to do so much for the autism community and for the bank itself through his position.
Maloney works with a team that helps him to ensure that the obligations, tasks, and responsibilities of his role are met.
Neil Forrester, co-Founder of Autism Works, a job fair seeking to bridge the gap between autistic job seekers and employers, mentioned he has found studies stating people with autism make the best workers as they are used to routine and enjoy having a purpose.
Although there are companies that exclusively hire people on the autism spectrum, many advocates are calling for all companies to be more open minded about employing neurodivergent individuals. There should also be more common knowledge about how those on the spectrum perform at work. Instead, many working autistic individuals continue to suffer ridicule due to stigmas and ignorance.
Deloitte. (March 2022) Embracing neurodiversity at work How Canadians with autism can help employers close the talent gap. https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/ca/Documents/fcc/ca-autism-2030.pdf?icid=untapped-fcc-en
Rosen, B.(2022, March 30).Canadians living with autism overlooked for employment opportunities: report,Global News Canada. https://globalnews.ca/news/8723098/canadians-autism-overlooked-employment-opportunities-report/