Life on the Autism spectrum

Autism & problems getting a job

Many people said that they wanted paid work, but this had proved difficult to obtain or sustain. The difficulties experienced related to a number of different factors including employers' lack of understanding about autism and Asperger syndrome, the social and communication difficulties people experienced (see ‘Communication and Interaction’), anxiety issues, difficulties in applying for jobs or handling interview situations effectively, difficulty multi-tasking or time management and obsessional behaviour.
“The interview technique is the difficult point”
The first problem people often experienced was trying to get a job. Several people talked about finding the application process problematic. Simon also had problems dealing with the Jobcentre.
While an obsessive focus for detail could suit some jobs, some people talked about how “an obsessional approach to things” slowed them down. 
“In an office situation, somehow being sociable with your colleagues is kind of expected”
Several people discussed their dislike of the social side of employment. Tim was pleased to work in IT where he didn’t have to talk to people all the time. Gail found fitting in with other staff difficult, unless they were from another country. Paul had some “anxiety issues” around talking to people on the telephone in his job as a warehouse assistant.
Difficulties with multi-tasking, time management and anxiety caused problems. One man got into debt, took on more overtime than he could cope with and ended up getting a criminal record. He said, “I am now working in the kitchen. I hate it but I left school with no qualifications, I have got a criminal record for not delivering leaflets. My future doesn’t look too good”. Alex said planning for the unexpected, like the fire alarm going off, was one of the problems she would experience in the workplace. John L has had varied work experiences but describes how he has “sort of wandered, really not doing much”. He is aware that he has to look after his health and while he would like to work but employers do not seem to understand that “they have to accept the package” that comes alongside his skills and abilities. Paul I describes himself as “slow to pick things up” and says that workplaces want ‘quick’ and efficient.
A couple of people talked about having difficulty with ‘authority’ figures which had led to problems in the workplace.
“There are a lot of people who could be a lot more productive and integrated into society”
There was some support to help people access paid employment, although this support had not yet been successful for most people we talked with. People were involved with organisations such as Workability, Connexions and the Careers Development Group. 
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People also talked about the kind of support they thought would possibly help them. This included a more flexible approach to the recruitment and interview process, the provision of training to help with interview and job application writing techniques and more awareness of autism spectrum conditions. As Damian said, given the right environment and people, he would be a workaholic.

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Last reviewed July 2016.
Last updated July 2016.


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