The term “high functioning” autism may make the condition sound like it’s not so hard to for the person to get a job. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case and their skills are wasted.
It’s very easy to overlook the fact that they need help in finding a job when they’re good at acting non-autistic, they have the skills for the job, or they have good grades.
Even though I only have HFA, I still have areas that I struggle with. That’s why I think we need autism awareness whether we’re “high” or “low” functioning.
My struggles include:
- Job interviews
- Sensory overload
- Describing emotions
- Expressing emotions
- Using incorrect facial expressions
- Processing social cues
- Volume control and tone of voice
- Not knowing what the written rules for socializing are
- Taking things literally
- Difficulty understanding sarcasm
- Misunderstanding instructions especially if they’re spoken instead of written
- Restricted interests
- Recognizing faces
The national unemployment rate in Canada is only 6.6% as of February 2017. Here’s a chart of the unemployment rates in Canada by province and territory.
Depending on which studies you read, for autistic people, their unemployment rates can be 85%! That’s not a typo. It’s 85% not 8.5%. Unfortunately, those with HFA are similarly affected. That’s why I think they need as much help. This article also lists other struggles besides employment, and has myths and facts about HFA.
From the symptoms mentioned above, you may have a better idea why it’s so hard for them to do well in job interviews or keep a job.
When a person partially shuts down from sensory overload, it can be mistaken for lacking interest if they become quiet or refuses to participate, or lacking the skills if they have difficulty performing. You can learn more about sensory overload from videos, forums, and other articles.
I think shutting down from sensory overload can also make us unaware of our condition and make it more difficult to avoid the situation. I tend to overestimate my ability to tolerate sensory overload. That’s why I think we should be aware of it and be prepared. I’m now bringing ear plugs more often when I go out.
Sources of excessive noise that can cause sensory overload at work include music, dining areas, crowds, appliances, vehicles, and phone calls.
Since autistic people may have a hard time sensing the volume of their voice, they might not notice the need to raise their volume when it gets louder. They might speak too loud in a quiet place or too quiet in a loud place.
Difficulties with the unwritten rules and expressing emotions can affect our first impressions. For example, if we want to share our interests, how do we know when it’s too much information. I feel the need to experiment.
Since it’s hard for autistic people to pass job interviews, I think we should share our skills and hobbies online, have networks, share autism awareness articles, and try to get support. It may benefit us if we pursue a diagnosis.
Thankfully, there’s employment services for people with disabilities. Some companies actually hire autistic people because of their strengths. I’m hoping that their employment rates would significantly increase in the future.
This article only focuses on employment. There’s other areas of concern as well.