Economic Realities of Autism

Personal income potential for the autistic population.

If you are autistic ( have autism?) and are an older adult like me, how many jobs have you held? How many jobs held included being bullied and or harassed by bosses, co workers or other associates?
How many of those jobs were high paying?
How many jobs did you hold long term (more than 5 years)??
I feel I can safely guess that you have held many low paying jobs, have been bullied and harassed, and have not held many of those jobs more than 5 years. Of course not everybody’s experiences will be the same.

Readers can guess where I am headed with this line of questioning and comments.

Of all the topics discussed on the autism forums I attend, jobs are in the discussions most frequently. How do I get training for a job? How do I know what to do in certain circumstances in my job? How do I keep from being bullied on the job? How do I apply for a job? How should I dress for a job interview? Should I reveal my autism? Should I ask for accommodations on the job? What jobs can be done at home and how do I set myself up in that business?

Due to autistic struggles, many of us find it difficult to interact with co workers or the public in work positions. Many report leaving jobs due to aggression and bullying from bosses, co workers, and customers although in general most of us get good grades for actual work performance. We can do the work, we struggle with social aspects of the job.

Studies have reported that autistic people have harder times finding jobs, keeping jobs, and working with others. Discussions in autism forums seems to reflect this.
Additionally, studies I have read say that autistic people are at higher risk of unemployment and homelessness. Gotta be related, right?

In a recent discussion online I asked what accommodations were needed most for adult autistic people once they knew of their diagnosis. Second after asking for counseling to help adjust to the new identity of self as autistic, was help finding and keeping jobs… job training, accommodations, aid in applying for jobs and matching skills to work on offer, all were mentioned as being something the adult autistic community needs and wants.

In some places agencies offer job placement help, training , skills testing, and social service agencies sometimes offer grants or have volunteers to help guide unemployed people to find suitable and sustainable work. As in many other areas of life where autistic people say they need help, this seems to be difficult for autistic populations to access. How can we find those autistic persons who need and want assistance with so many aspects of work and get them connected with the right agency, the right group, the right training or classes, the right office, social worker, volunteers or case workers? I don’t have answers, but I am learning more specific things about needs of the adult autistic community.
First thing on our list should be to make these agencies aware of our presence. Today adult autism from age 18 to 100 is not known or understood… autism is thought of as something related to children who get “treatment” early and are somehow magically no longer struggling or needing services when they become adults (age 18 to 22 depending on laws in your state). 5+ million adults over age 18 in the USA alone are autistic. ( CDC numbers according to the last census) and the majority of us are not diagnosed. How can we make society aware that autism is “for life” and not just for kids???????? I hope somebody finds some answers!

What happened to all the autistic children?

They grew up to be adults!

Awareness is rising about autism and most people have heard of autism. Autism is primarily thought of as a children’s issue in the eye of the general public. What happens when these kids grow up? What happened to all the children who grew up before autism was commonly diagnosed in kids? They are now autistic adults!
If the CDC is right, there are well over 4 million autistic adults in the United States alone, and most of us have never suspected we are autistic.

How do we find autistic adults today?

Autistic people are more likely to be suicidal.

Autistic people are more likely to be victims of crime.

Autistic people have a higher rate of depression and anxiety.

Autistic people account for about 10 percent of admissions for treatment in rehab centers for alcohol and drugs ( compared to 1 percent of the general population admitted) This is truly stunning when you understand that autism is believed to affect 2.2 percent of the general population.

Autism may account for up to 10 percent or more of the homeless population.

Autism may be involved in those admitted to jails and prisons although very little or no research has been done specifically on autism. Intellectual disability in general has been studied as a factor in prison populations and shown to be present in higher than normal levels among the general population.

Autistic people tend to have poorer health and to die younger. Life expectancy in some studies is as low as 38 years. Other studies say around 58.

From these statements one can see how knowledge of autism would be particularly useful to certain groups. Doctors and health care workers of all types, law enforcement professionals, social workers, can you name others?

Diagnosis of autism as an adult can change lives. Self understanding is one of the keys to finding a new life amid common social struggles. Autistic people seem to have more than our share from a statistical reporting level at the very least. I can not tell you the huge difference my understanding of my own late diagnosis has made in my mundane and every day life. I can only imagine how useful such self knowledge can be to those struggling with such difficult issues in their lives, and how useful it would be to know and understand about how autism may have been involved in so many lives of pain and hardship.
I am reading of mandatory screening for autism in new hospital admissions for suicidal behaviors. I am reading of mandatory screening in clinical situations for care of those struggling with addictions.
I am grateful that professionals in some places are using today’s understanding of autism to help recognize and diagnose autistic adults. So much more needs to be done. Please help spread the word.