Adults on the autism spectrum face significant barriers to employment, with 85 percent of college-educated adults with autism unemployed. While adults with autism may have the hard skills needed to do a job, they often struggle with the soft skills required to get hired and stay employed. While some employers — Microsoft, SAP, and Ernst and Young, to name a few — are beginning to appreciate the unique talents that individuals on the autism spectrum bring to the table, most people with autism have to get creative in order to find work that suits them. Often, that means turning to technology for solutions to employment challenges.
Below are four ways that people with autism can use tech to meet their professional goals.
Improve Interpersonal Skills with Apps
For adults with autism and average or above-average intelligence, the greatest barrier to employment is the interpersonal skills needed to thrive in collaborative workplaces. Not only are social skills important to the interview, but they also have a big impact on how an adult with autism is perceived by colleagues and supervisors. However, while skills such as eye contact and interpersonal conflict may not come naturally to those with autism, they can be improved upon. Apps like ConversationBuilder Teen and Ummo help young adults improve communication and social skills outside of real-life trial and error. While apps for adults are limited, jobseekers can also hone their interpersonal skills using online guides on active listening, nonverbal communication, and other workplace skills.
Manage Time with Smartphone Tools
Time management, prioritization, and staying on task can be difficult for adults with autism, who often face deficits in executive functioning. Basic smartphone tools like timers and calendars can help adults on the spectrum organize their days. Those who want to take their time management skills to the next level can look to apps like Routinely, Habitica, and Work Autonomy. Work Autonomy, in particular, is designed to support adults with autism in the workplace, with tools for improving communication and tracking work performance so employees can understand and meet work expectations.
Work Your Own Way via Telecommuting
As more employers embrace remote work, the professional world is becoming a friendlier place for adults with an autism spectrum disorder. Rather than commuting to an office that’s full of distractions — from flickering fluorescent lights to chatty co-workers — adults with autism can work in an environment that puts their comfort and focus first. Working from home does require basic technology, however, and not all employers provide the necessary tech to home-based workers. In addition to a home computer and high-speed internet connection, remote workers should have a newer-model smartphone and unlimited cell phone plans that cover calling, texting, and data so they’re readily available to clients and colleagues.
Get Into the Gig Economy
For adults with autism who struggle to get past the interview, the gig economy could offer an incredible solution to their employment challenges. When it comes to getting hired in the gig economy, portfolios and positive reviews are often given more weight than interviews; in fact, many gigs don’t require an interview at all. Gig economy jobs that are a good fit for those with autism range from transcriptionists and copy editors to web developers and graphic designers. While there is a wide range of gig economy platforms, freelance platforms like Upwork, FlexJobs, and Fiverr are best for those seeking professional work.
Technology may not overcome every barrier that adults with autism face in the workplace. However, with tools that help adults on the spectrum perform better in the workplace and find opportunities tailored to their unique needs, barriers to employment are slowly but surely shrinking for people with autism.
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