Autism Awareness and the Workplace


April 2nd, 2019, marks World Autism Awareness Day. A day in which people who hold this cause near and dear to their hearts will wear light blue, and buildings, landmarks, homes and communities will light up with light blue color, to hope to spread additional awareness of autism and its impacts across the world. For me, the day has special significance due to a beloved family member being on the autism spectrum, and it makes me wonder what the world will be like for her when she becomes an adult someday – – Will it be an inclusive world? An understanding world? A forgiving world when she struggles to find the right words, demonstrate self-control of her actions, and express herself accordingly? What will her employment opportunities look like…

…or will there be employment opportunities for her? The current estimation is that between 75-85% of adults on the autism spectrum are unemployed, and worldwide, employers are making strides to become more inclusive and employ people on the spectrum. But in a world where Walmart is one of the largest employers and they’ve just ceased having their largest position for the elderly and those with disabilities – the famous Walmart Greeter, is there more to be done?

The answer is a resounding ‘absolutely’. But when and how? The right time is now, when the current overall unemployment rate is so low, at only 3.8% as of February 2019. Businesses are struggling to find the right talent, and when they find them, retaining them is a struggle – As you’re likely aware, younger baby boomers are now reported to have held 11.7 jobs in their lifetime, and it’s projected the statistic will increase for Generation X, Millennials, and beyond. There’s an untapped goldmine by hiring individuals on the autism spectrum who can learn a position and perform it well, tailored as it can be to their own unique abilities.

This is a call to Human Resource professionals, to lead this employment initiative within their business to help solve the likely talent gap in their own workplace. There are many services that are being developed to help both employees with autism gain employment, and to teach businesses how to employ individuals with disabilities, including autism. One such organization locally in Indianapolis is Tangram, and (full disclosure) I’m proud to be on their Board of Directors. If your organization is looking to employ an incredible population of individuals, such as my loved one, there are opportunities to partner with organizations such as this to train your managers, design positions, and find individuals with disabilities such as autism to make your workplace light up blue every day!