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Issues Autistic Adults Have With Employment

February 1, 2020

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Over 80% of autistic adults are unemployed. Only a small percentage of us work full-time or part-time. Why is that? There are several reasons why we struggle with jobs.

The lack of education on autism makes it difficult in life. We see the world in black and white. It’s like people are speaking a language you don’t know. The way others teach is not how we learn, and it’s very difficult to thrive in a world you don’t understand. Most of us struggle with adulting.

I know I do. My mom child shames me for it all the time. She should not shame me and guilt me over traits I have tied to a disorder that I never wanted in the first place.

You can’t tell me to be myself and at the same time judge me because it doesn’t fit your standards.

My struggles start a home

Instead of listening to me and trying to understand my perspective, she brushes it off as ‘excuses.’ If I need direct instructions, I need it to know what is expected of me.

 Everyone pulls the excuse card because they don’t want to understand. I am sick and tired of people not understanding my side of this stick and spewing things like I can make it happen with a magic wand.

What struggles we have there is a stigma that they are excuses to an outsider.

I learn by watching someone do something. Like it or not, I learn by guidance.

My mom expects me to learn how she does which is trial and error. She says ‘I need to learn.’ She has a point I need to learn how to do stuff, on the other hand, I cannot learn if I am not being taught how I can understand.

I needed dental surgery but didn’t pick the right plan. 

Back when I needed that dental surgery, she didn’t want to show me how to pick the right plan and I ended up picking a plan that would not cover what I needed. How does she expect me to learn?

Does she expect the magical fairies to show me?! I would have understood better if I had help looking out for what to expect from insurance ( eg deductibles, co-pays, how much you’d pay out of pocket for procedures, etc)

How do you expect me to learn if you don’t teach me how I learn? I think learning differences can complicate employment. If I am taught how I can learn, it’s a breeze. If you don’t teach me how I can learn, I will struggle. 

I feel our differences get in the way

It’s not that we cannot do the job. I know neurotypical will say ‘Well if anyone can’t do the job, of course, they will be fired.’ We are more than qualified for the job. Chances are we are 10x  more qualified than the next guy. On the other hand, we need adjustments to be able to do our job more effectively.  How is it any different than a repairman needing the right tools to fix your stuff?

Our differences aren’t accepted. The workforce is running on neurotypical standards and we are not like the NTs. NTs, don’t struggle with the things we struggle with. I feel a more autism-friendly workplace would help us a ton.

I cannot find a job because none of them have the right setting for me.

There are several reasons why job hunting is a challenge. There is no set reason why we struggle with job searches, landing a job, and keeping it. I am just pointing out the most common reasons. If you want, you can comment on your struggles with employment that I did not talk about on this blog.  Everyone on the spectrum is different so struggles may vary.

I rant about a job program that I thought would help me but didn’t.


Outsiders wouldn’t understand the struggles that we face with employment. We need the right setting so we can function. NTS can cope whether it’s hot, cold, busy, or quiet. For us, the setting has to be the desired setting. More like NTs can tune it out. We can’t. 

The Application

If you are looking for a job, you have to apply. You cannot walk in and ask for a job like in the movies. Application screening is the first struggle for autistic adults. Most applications have a questionnaire where it gives you a scenario and you have to pick the best answer.

A person may misunderstand how the assessment will determine if they’re right for the job. Eg avoid picking X too often. The applicant may not know how to answer the questions or know what the question is asking. 

They will not even consider you if you do not pass the questionnaire. I applied to Walmart, only because my mom wanted me to work there so badly, their application has a questionnaire. It even said I had to pass to be considered for the job.

I did not know how to answer most of the questions, I did not pass the assessment, therefore, they did not want me. If that’s the case, I can’t get hired at places that do assessments on their applications.

More than likely most stores do these tests. Remember, neurotypicals don’t have the issues that we have.

I watched a video on YouTube called “Employable Me” which featured someone on the autism spectrum who struggled with an assessment they needed to take to be considered for the job, they did not pass because of a question they could not understand. It feels like most jobs are made for neurotypicals and not us.

I mean we struggle with the questions if they’re not worded on how we can understand them. I failed the US Constitution test in 11th grade. I did study for the test. When I got the test it was different from the review. I went over the test with a teacher and he said it was how the questions were worded. If my test had been modified, I would have passed the first time. 

NTs know how to answer the questions they just don’t understand what it has to do with the job.

a new thing I learned, is the quizzes most applications have been to weed out people like me.

Work History

One thing that was a huge issue for me is all applications ask for your work history. Spoiler alert, I don’t have a work history. The person may not know what to put down if they have never had a job.

I just didn’t know what to put on the work history. The only thing I had done was when I was in high school, I was in the music program and everyone in the music department ( Band, Choir, etc) was required to help out at a Jazz band fest. This was from 2011/2012. This could be too far back as most places probably look for more recent stuff. If this was from 2015/2016 maybe I would have had a chance.

Also, the teacher I had for the band left the school after I  moved up a year. Most applications require you to have references, however, the applicant may not have any friends to put down. I applied to Culver’s and didn’t get a call because I have no references and fast-food places hire anyone.

Or they didn’t want me due to my lack of experience. The person may not have anyone reliable that they can put as a reference. The job will call whoever you put down so the applicant can’t just put down anyone or make someone up and add a random number. You have to tell them you’re adding them for reference. If they’re busy, they may not be free if the job calls them.

My friend needed references to enlist in the Marines. His mom put my grandpa down as a reference and she told him the drill Sargent may call him.  

Resume Screening 

I follow some autism pages and one page posted a graphic about discrimination against us in the workplace. The graphics mention how gaps in employment or if the person had several jobs that were only held for a short time can cast bad judgment on us.

Gaps in employment probably refer to the person’s struggle with finding a job maybe after quitting a job that didn’t work out. The several jobs refer to how we struggle to hold down a job and is fired after X amount of time. Most likely if the interviewer/manager sees the person had 10 jobs but only had them for a month or less, this makes the interviewer think the person wasn’t fit for the job.

That person is qualified to the tee for the job. They were fired because their differences weren’t accepted or for other reasons. For instance, my mom refuses to accept that I need a time frame and direct instructions to better understand when I need to be ready or how something needs to be done. If you just say ‘get up early,’ that tells me nothing. How early? 7 am? 8 am? 9 am? Why let someone useful for your company go over something that can be fixed easily?

The Job’s environment 


I’ve mentioned that the setting of the job can play a big role in our ability to perform the job. ASD people have sensory issues. These can vary. Some are sensitive to light, cold, hot, unwanted physical contact, etc. If the jobs have a lot of people, these sensory issues may be a problem. Take Walmart, it’s just too busy and fast-paced for me to work at.

I could barely handle being there as a shopper and my mom expected me to work there. Too many people, and too many things happening to be able to focus on the job. It would be impossible to focus on a job and a kid is screaming around me. Not all of us can afford noise-canceling headphones.

I feel some autism pages should have a giveaway for noise-canceling headphones or if the person has a YouTube channel/ blog, the page should give them the headphones for free in exchange for a review/mentioning the headphones. In my opinion, retail jobs or any job dealing with the public is not for us. This is just my 2 cents. Everyone is different. 

Jobs that care about efficiency I feel are not for us. We do struggle on the job for not being fast enough for the employers. Jobs that care about how fast you work are ableist. It should be if you can do the job not how fast you do it. Speed doesn’t mean it will be neat. 

A greeter at Walmart could work for some of us, but now the position is being cut at some Walmarts. If any disabled/ND folks were greeters now they’re out of a job. This position can help people with anxiety, too.  It can be hard for some people. Remember everyone is different. If you’re the type that doesn’t have bad anxiety/panic attacks etc then a greeter would be right for you.

I would not be able to handle this job due to long-standing periods. I’d have to sit for a break frequently. Mental illness really makes you tired. This can be seen as being lazy to outsiders. People have it in their heads that disabilities are visible ( wheelchairs, canes, walkers)

Workplace Bullying

Due to our social differences, we are targets for bullying. We have issues with bullying in school.

 Both kids and adults. I got bullied for being different and I just need an alternative method. I would get called names by the NTs for not understanding their language. When if you explained it in a different text, I would have had that light bulb over the head moment. Kids I had never seen before hated me all of a sudden. I wasn’t given a chance at all because these kids listened to what people told them about me. We can be bullied into quitting our job.

Employers can even harass us. Someone posted in a group that their boss made a snarky mark about their autism. They could not quit because they had no other way to pay their bills. No one, I mean NO ONE should have to be treated badly so they can live. This is why I strongly suggest you create a savings account and put money away to have for backup.

This is why I am all for self-employment for autistic adults. Self-employment for anyone. No one should have to damage their mental health or health together for a job that doesn’t give a rat hat about them.

If you were to drop dead right now, they’d replace you in a week max. Probably wouldn’t even bother to attend your funeral or pay their respects. A UPS worker was killed while doing deliveries. The company started a GoFundMe to pay for funeral costs rather than just paying for it. See, they do not care about us. All they want is money. 

Lack Of Communication 

When it comes to autistics, you have to add more context when giving them commands or explaining something. For instance ‘Joe needs the tape’ will not cut it. I saw another graphic on Facebook that explains if you just leave one-liners with no context it may seem like a passive statement more than a request.

For instance, my mom mentioned helping my uncle in the flea market. She did not provide context, so I just saw it as a train of thought. If I didn’t have anxiety with crowds, helping my uncle at the flea market would be something I could do.

She was suggesting it and I thought it was just a random thought. If you do not provide context like ‘please take out the garbage in a minute’ we will not think it’s important.

Everyone is different, remember that. This can be extremely problematic if the boss were to give us a task but not provide those extra details. Say the boss says ‘Joe needs help in the so-and-so department,’

if the boss does not say now, at 3 o’clock, etc the employee will not think Joe needs help right away and the boss gets mad that the employee did not help Joe when the boss asked. This happens to my mom and me all the time.

One time and this happened last year, my mom did not give me a set time she wanted to leave and yelled at me for 10 minutes for not being ready in time. If she told me what time to be ready I would have known the steps I needed to take to be sure I was ready on time. All we ask for is direct instructions so we know what is expected and you’ll act like we want a novel.

I felt dead inside and wanted to hurt myself again. This would have been the 3rd time I self-harmed or contemplated self-harm for getting yelled at.

Is it a wise idea to put someone prone to hurting themselves or think about hurting themselves when they get yelled at putting them on a job where it’s highly possible is a good idea. This is the icing on the cake as to why I cannot handle the stress and hassle of a job. If we are not fast enough they yell at us which just adds fuel to the fire.

It wasn’t that hard to say ‘Be ready at 9’ my mom would rather play mind games. Not trying to blame everything on my mom. If she would listen to me when I explain the things I need to succeed and she ignores it, how can I succeed?

Workplace Discrimination 

Closed-minded employers can also make the persons stay at the job short, or stop them in their tracks. The peson tells their employer about their autism to request the accommodations that they need to function.

In most cases, the aspie is fired upon revealing their autism. It does sound like a personal attack because the worker has autism.

In other cases, the person is harassed and quits as a result. I was on Reddit and a person posted that they were fired for being autistic. I feel it’s more of their autism habits being read the wrong way, being found annoying by other workers, and the boss firing the employee due to too many complaints/reports.

When someone says they were fired for being X, they are probably saying the traits tied to their disorder were seen the wrong way. Stimming, a common mechanism we use to regulate our environment, can be read wrong by an NT as ‘immature’ or ‘childish’ or ‘unprofessional.’ Stimming varies from chewing to playing with something.

Not only autistic people have this problem. People with certain disorders do as well. I saw an article where a Chrone’s patient who worked for an Amazon call center got fired because of his illness. Due to his frequent restroom trips.

This is just to show when people say they lost their job due to their disorder, they were punished for traits caused by the disorder that they can not control. In this guy’s case,  his illness makes him do #2 frequently. Companies that complain about bathroom trips are ableist as you can see with the guy I am talking about. Depending on the context. 

Not Working Fast Enough

 The employee not being fast enough for the employer can also make keeping the job hard. This is why we need jobs where ASD people can go at their own pace without being bashed for ‘moving too slow.’ Most jobs care more about efficiency than quality. Which is a messed-up system. Customers can also complain about you not moving fast enough.

That rules out fast food for us (or me at least) since you need to be quick. Hence what it’s called FAST food. Some of us can handle fast food, some can’t. I feel jobs that care about efficiency are not for some of us. I feel jobs that care about quality are for us. personally, I rather someone take 2 hours to clean my room and it’s neat than for them to rush and do it in 20 minutes and it’s just as messy as when the person started. Not everyone thinks like that.

Can’t Get Passed The Interview

Why do we struggle with interviews? Well, there are several reasons why. The person can take the questions too literally. The question ‘Tell me about yourself’ could be the reason why we struggled with the interview. This question most likely is, to sum up, your previous employment or how you feel you fit the job.

The person will think the tell me about yourself question is, to sum up, some facts about them like where they’re from. When a friend wants you to tell them about yourself, they want to know some interesting things about you.

We take things literally, therefore, we may answer the questions too literally. It takes us a bit to process and understand your question. If the interviewer sees the person taking too long to answer the questions, this can count against them. Sometimes anxiety gets to the person and it causes them to mess up the interview.

Sometimes an unexpected question can pop up and the person does not know how to answer it. The interviewer will not know the interviewee has autism, therefore the interviewee’s behavior will likely be read as they are not interested in the job.

I know this is rich coming from someone who has never had a job due to autism, you have to think about how your behavior can be read. We lack the skills to know how someone may read our body language, voice tone, etc. Of course, if the person is not aware of how their body language, voice tone, etc is being read, this can complicate things.

Can’t Keep The Job

Why is it that we can’t hold down a job?  It’s NOT because we can’t do the job, it’s because our differences are not accepted. It’s because of the employers’ or co-workers’ attitudes towards us. The stigma. Misinformation.

The boss’s method of learning the job is too difficult for you to understand. You need to see someone do the action to better understand the job, depending on the job. However, there may not always be an option to have someone demonstrate the job for you to understand. You may need more clarity on the tasks you are given.

We need a time frame when giving a request, otherwise, we will think it’s not important. The boss does not do this when he/she gives you your assignment(s).

The person does not do the job the way the boss wanted to and the boss gets mad. You’re reprimanded for taking too long to understand the job, it’s not your fault you need a different method or take longer on some things than everyone else.

Or you’re yelled at for not doing the job the way the boss wanted you to do it due to missing details as to how the job needed to be done.

Closing statement

Autistic employment struggles vs non-autistic struggles are very different. NTs are randomly fired from their jobs. We’re fired due to discrimination. Employers just come up with an excuse to cover their asses.  I don’t mean every employer in the galaxy. I am talking about the ableist ones.

My mom worked at NW Medicine and was fired for moving too slowly. I think a job like that is ableist. Amazon fires you if you don’t meet the pick rate, which is ableist to someone with fribomialga(however it’s spelled) or any other muscle pain disorder.

This is why we need disability-friendly jobs according to the person’s issue. I mean, unlike the ableist pick rate at Amazon, something that values quality over quantity. If you struggle with employment, you can submit your story. I am taking guest articles. Autism and employment issues need as much attention as they can get.

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