Employment and living with autism: Personal, social and economic impact

Published May 2017


Individuals with autism are often faced with significant barriers to entering the workforce, irrespective of their individual level of functioning or capabilities. Research suggests that even in the developed countries adults with autism experience higher rates of unemployment than almost all other disability groups. These findings are concerning if we have in mind the known positive effects of employment on the individual, the family system, and as a means of offsetting the economic costs of autism. Furthermore, unemployment can have devastating impacts on the mental and physical health of the unemployed individual. Despite the importance of improving employment outcomes for individuals with autism, there is a marked lack of research regarding employment supports or interventions for adults with autism. In this chapter we first review the existing literature with regard to what we know about employment and employment programs in individuals with autism. Next we draw attention to the high rate of co-morbid disorders in adults with autism, in particular depression and suicidal ideation, anxiety and the potential impact of sleep disorders. Consistent with the theme of this book, personal narratives are provided in the form of case studies from people affected by autism. Our first case study describes the life of a young man who participates in supported employment and who is actively engaged with his community. We then describe an innovative employment program operating in Australia that has been effective in providing meaningful employment opportunities in the information technology sector to adults with autism. The benefits of employment for the individual and the family unit are then set in the broader context of the net economic gains for society. For a successful transition into employment the economic gains and productivity improvement over the lifetime of the individual are positive and significant, far outweighing the costs of the intervention.
Hedley, D., Uljarević, M., & Hedley, D.F.E. (2016). Employment and living with autism: Personal, social and economic impact. In S. Halder & L.C. Assaf (eds), Inclusion, Disability and Culture: An Ethnographic Perspective Traversing Abilities and Challenges, (pp. 295-311). Springer International Publishing. ISBN: 978-3-319-55224-8. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-55224-8_19.

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