Autism-friendly employers are committed to hiring neurodivergent people and providing workplace accommodations for employees with autism and other mental health conditions.
Unless you know where to look, however, it can be hard to know which employers are actively offering jobs to adults and teenagers with autism.
In recent years, several major top tech companies have launched workplace inclusion programs that make it easier for neurodivergent people to find good jobs.
This article looks at 10 of the most autism-friendly employers in the United States. As you’ll see, some of these companies are open to people with a wide range of abilities; others are looking specifically for high-functioning individuals with particular skill sets.
Why More Autism-Friendly Employers?
According to research, job-related activities help reduce symptoms and increase daily living skills for people with autism. Even so, only about half of adults with autism are employed.
There’s no doubt that employment is elusive for adults on the spectrum. This reality, however, is changing fast.
The reasons for this rapid expansion of opportunities aren’t absolutely clear, but here are a few facts:
- The awareness of autism is growing. A large increase in diagnoses means that an estimated 1 in 36 American children has autism.
- The increase in diagnoses is, at least in part, the result of much broader diagnostic criteria for autism. Instead of including only severely disabled individuals, the autism spectrum now includes individuals with high intelligence and significant skills.
- There is an increasing need for workers with the skills, thought patterns, and work ethic that are common among people on the autism spectrum.
- People with autism often prefer repetitive work and may not have a strong desire or need for novelty. This can be an asset in many jobs and can be hard to find within the general community.
Autistic people are, in general, dependable, routinized, focused, detail-oriented, and passionate about their work. Many have outstanding technical and/or math skills. And quite a few are able to find unique solutions to problems that have eluded their more conventional colleagues.
10 Things to Know About Autism and Employment
Microsoft’s dedicated Neurodiversity Hiring Program offers job recruitment and career development strategies related to diversity and inclusion.
Inspired by an employee with an autistic son, the program includes a multi-day, hands-on academy that focuses on job capabilities, team projects,and skills assessment.
The non-traditional hiring event gives candidates a chance to reveal their talents and meet hiring managers and teams while learning about Microsoft and its opportunities.
Microsoft notes that people with autism have succeeded in multiple full- and part-time employment roles, including software engineer and data scientist positions.
SAP is a very large tech firm based in Germany but with offices located around the world. The company has a strong diversity program which includes their Autism at Work Program.
This groundbreaking program launched in 2013, and it integrates adults with autism into the workforce.
Currently, more than 200 SAP colleagues are employed via the Autism at Work program.
Ford partnered with the Autism Alliance of Michigan to found a program calledFordInclusiveWorks with the specific goal of hiring and supporting employees on the autism spectrum. This program is now titled FordWorks.
Ford worked with the Product Development Vehicle Evaluation and Verification supervisors and Human Resources to determine employment needs, and then teamed up with the Autism Alliance of Michigan to understand the talents and strengths of those with autism.
The Spectrum of Autism Symptoms
Ernst and Young
Ernst and Young is a huge international accounting firm that has discovered the value of neurodiversity to its bottom line. According to its website, “Companies are finding that people with autism approach problems differently and that their logical, straightforward thinking can spur process improvements that greatly increase productivity.”
As a company that is actively trying to recruit people with autism, Ernst and Young determined that “though many people with autism are intelligent, well-educated and eager to work, they often face interpersonal challenges that make it difficult to get in the door.”
To address this and related issues, the company created a project team to find, train, and place autistic employees. They also created a unique “Center of Excellence” in Philadelphia specifically geared to making the most of autistic employees’ particular strengths.
Walgreens runs a program called REDI, which stands for Retail Employees with Disabilities. Working with local agencies, they provide externs with training in specific skill areas and then evaluate each individual to place them appropriately.
According to their website: “Those who graduate REDI and attain an evaluation score of 3.0 or higher earn a ‘recommended for hire’ designation, can bypass the standard Hourly Selector assessment if applying for CSA [customer service associate] roles at Walgreens, and will be able to apply for CSA positions nationwide.”
Autism Coaches and Experts
Home Depot and CVS Caremark
Both Home Depot and CVS Caremark partnered with an organization called Ken’s Krew to recruit and train disabled employees. In fact, a co-founder of Home Depot played an important role in getting Ken’s Krew started. The program provides job matching, training, job coaching, community supports, and more.
Ken’s Krew associates are working in over 150 Home Depot stores across the country.
AMC Theatres’ FOCUS program, which stands for Furthering Opportunities, Cultivating Untapped Strengths, is an employee development program specifically directed toward hiring disabled individuals. One of their partners for this program is the Autism Society.
According to their website, AMC “provides individuals affected by disabilities with access to opportunities for competitive employment, wages, and benefits side-by-side with other associates in our theatres.”
More youngadults with autism are finishing school and struggling to enter the workforce. At the same time, more businesses are discovering the benefits of hiring autistic employees. These two factors, together, are spurring the growth of small businesses built around the strengths of autistic workers.
A few of these businesses in the United States include:
It’s challenging for adults and teenagers with autism to find employment, but many companies are launching initiatives aimed at making it easier for neurodivergent people to enter the workforce.
Some companies are specifically looking for individuals who have autism traits, as these can be beneficial when performing certain kinds of work. Others are actively recruiting people with autism as a part of workplace diversity initiatives.
A Word From Verywell
If you or a loved one with autism is starting to look into job options, it makes sense to do some homework to uncover some of the possibilities. Even autistic individuals with limited skills have more opportunities than ever before.
Your local vocational agencies may not know about all the options, so it’s up to you to explore what’s out there, what’s possible, and how to apply.
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
Ohl A, Grice Sheff M, Small S, Nguyen J, Paskor K, Zanjirian A. Predictors of employment status among adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder.Work. 2017;56(2):345-355. doi:10.3233/WOR-172492
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data and statistics on autism spectrum disorder.
Microsoft. Global diversity and inclusion.
Ford. FordWorks program.
Ernst and Young. Neurodiversity: driving innovation from unexpected places.
Ken’s Krew. About us.
AMC Theatres. AMC diversity and inclusion.
TD Magazine. A workforce that spans the spectrum.
By Lisa Jo Rudy
Lisa Jo Rudy, MDiv, is a writer, advocate, author, and consultant specializing in the field of autism.
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