Recap: Transitioning into the Workplace with Autism: Challenges and Opportunities

Here are some resources shared by our 2018 partner and sponsor the University of Michigan Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center:


On March 21, Ann Arbor Health Hacks hosted John Steudle of the Autism Alliance of Michigan (AAOMI), who lead a discussion on Transitioning into the Workplace with Autism: Challenges and Opportunities.

The event, which was held at MI-HQ, drew a diverse group of nearly 30 people from the IT, engineering, academic and startup communities, as well as family members of and advocates for people with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD.

Affecting one in every 68 people, ASD is a neurological developmental disorder. ASD affects each person differently and can cause difficulty thinking, feeling, communicating and relating to others. People with ASD may also experience repetitive body movements or sounds.

These factors can make it challenging for someone with ASD to transition to find and keep a job, Steudle explained. In fact, the unemployment rate for people with autism is 75 to 90 percent.

However, there are steps that can be taken to make it possible for people with ASD to both attain jobs and be successful in them—and there are many benefits for both individuals with ASD and their employers.

Workplace Challenges for People with ASD

Several challenges contribute to the high unemployment rate for people with ASD, Steudle said. These include societal factors, such as a general lack of understanding about what people with autism can bring to their workplace and community. People with ASD also face barriers to getting a job, such as lack of education and/or work experience, transportation, and caregiver support. Many also have difficulty with interpersonal etiquette and interview skills.

If they do find a job, people with ASD often experience a range of other challenges, including difficulty relating to others and acting in a professional manner, understanding unspoken social cues and norms, and identifying and advocating for job accommodation that would allow them to succeed.

Opportunities for People with ASD and Their Employers

Despite these challenges, there are many benefits to helping people with ASD transition to the workplace. The individuals themselves benefit from a sense of purpose, independence, and an opportunity to earn a sustainable income and decrease their need for government support.

Employers also benefit by hiring people with ASD, Steudle explained. In addition to the opportunity for tax credits and enhancing the organization’s diversity and inclusion efforts, companies that hire people with ASD and create a supportive work environment for them typically see lower turnover, increased productivity, and decreased absenteeism.

The A2H2 group discussed the things organizations can do to make transitioning into the workplace easier for people with ASD, such as transparency in the application process, accommodations in the interview process to help overcome some of the interpersonal barriers people with ASD face, and job accommodations, such as allowing employees to work remotely or wear headphones at work.

Our 2018 A2H2 Hackathon, which will be held June 22 to 24, will have a special track focusing on transition into independence for young people with disabilities, thanks to a collaboration with the University of Michigan Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center under a grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research. This event was one of several meant to inform our community about the challenges so we can come together in June to co-create better solutions!

2018-04-22T09:38:48+00:00 April 22, 2018|