By Ben A. Neiburger, Attorney, Generation Law

I have clients with children on the autism spectrum so an article on the challenges faced by young autistic adults entering the workforce caught my eye.

It details the story of a 26-year-old man looking for a position in accounting. Although he had top marks at university, his conundrum was the same as many young people: he needed job experience. And of course to get job experience, he needed a job. It’s a story repeated by every generation.

So what makes him different every other millennial job-seeker? He has a form of high-functioning autism called  Asperger’s Syndrome which affects the way he communicates and interacts with people.

He was able to access job search training through his state workforce center which provided him some scenario-based job searching practice. That helped – but not enough to get him past the interview stage of a hiring process.

The article explores the issue through his parent’s eyes as well. They feel he is being discriminated against in his search. They see their son getting the interviews but no offers. And of course they see a correlation between this and the unusual way he communicates and speaks.

Their son still lives with them as they can see that he’s not prepared to live on his own. And even if he wanted to, there’s no assistance for him to do so as he’s perceived as being too high-functioning to quality for any available funding programs.

So employers find him too unusual to hire but funding bodies find him too high functioning to assist. That puts him between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

What’s clearly needed is a review of government assistance guidelines to allow for the admittedly subjective way that his behavior is a barrier to getting hired. Employers need to step up as well, educating their staff about working with people on the autism spectrum.

As well, this underlines the need for parents of adult children on the autistic spectrum to plan for the reality that their children’s adult lives might be tougher than they should be. Some in the autism community think that having a high-performing Asperger’s child has some advantages over other areas on  the spectrum. In truth, its a matter of degrees. They will likely require assistance whatever their level of independance and achievement.

Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability, diagnosed in 1 per 68 births in 2010, up from 1 in 150 in 2000, according to the federal Centers of Disease Control.

Updated 4-29-2024
Originally published 4-14-2016