Autism, Employment, and Entrepreneurship by Ashley Taylor

Considering that one out of every 68 children born in the United States lies somewhere on the autism spectrum, this broad range of disabilities is no longer considered an insurmountable challenge when it comes to entering the workforce. This is especially true in major metropolitan areas, such as New York City.

Understanding autism

 Autism is not a singular condition; rather, it is a range of characteristics united by impaired social skills and communication issues. According to the CDC, autism is more prevalent in boys, with diagnosis rates more than doubling since 1992. Due to the social aspect, many adults with autism find it difficult to find and maintain lucrative employment. However, autistic individuals often have traits that make them exceptional in certain professions, including software development, one of the highest-paying careers in today’s tech-centric society.

Careers for people with autism

A vast majority of individuals on the autism spectrum present with cognitive orders that are anything but a disability in jobs that require a high level of focus. Adults with autism often thrive in jobs that require an almost excessive level of intensity. Great jobs for adults with autism include:

  • Computer Programmer
  • Photographer
  • Web Designer
  • Clockmaker
  • Carpenter
  • Welder
  • Mechanic
  • Engineer
  • Drafter
  • Artist
  • Accountant
  • Physicist (Einstein and Newton are both suspected to have had a form of autism)
  • Statistician

For those who simply have no desire to enter a traditional workplace, starting a business is a dream not out of reach.

Autistic business owners

There are a number of high-profile entrepreneurs and entertainers who have come out in recent years with their autism diagnosis. Academy Award nominee Dan Aykroyd and Pokémon creator Satoshi Tajiri are two of the more famous examples. Lesser-known but equally inspiring are people like Matt Cottle, founder of Stuttering King Bakery, and Anthony Barrett, who founded Anthony At Your Service in 2012. With the help of his assistant, Mikey, Anthony runs all kinds of errands for people around his hometown and employs a number of other individuals with disabilities.

Why entrepreneurship?

People with disabilities own businesses in every state of the nation, a shining example that anything is possible. There are a number of benefits to self-employment, not the least of which are participation in the mainstream economy and societal integration. Disabled business owners, especially those with autism, direct the public’s attention to these disorders and help make them more acceptable and understandable. Entrepreneurs with disabilities have the power to create millions of jobs for others in their situation. This not only bolsters these individuals’ personal financial situations but also helps shed light on the millions of potential employees that may be overlooked due to an autism diagnosis.

Path to self-employment

There are many options for people with autism to be their own boss and perform work that is lucrative and emotionally fulfilling to them. Those who love animals may wish to start a dog walking, dog boarding, or doggy daycare business; individuals who don’t want to be confined to an office may enjoy shuttling people via Uber or Lyft; and those who have an additional property or even an extra room can earn an income by renting out their space.

Individuals with disabilities who want to start a more traditional business may qualify for special loans through the Small Business Administration. Most cities have services that offer career counseling, which is helpful for people with autism as it allows the opportunity to identify and evaluate strengths and weaknesses. The first step toward entrepreneurship is to write a business plan. This is a summary of the proposed business that offers a complete description of its services as well as a thorough market analysis, financial projections, and sales and marketing strategies. An alternate first course of action is to take self-guided courses on topics such as contracting, financing, marketing, and business management. (Find free online course through the SBA here.)

Business owners must also determine the location of the business, obtain financing, and register with local and state tax authorities. Home-based businesses are a good choice for people with autism who find it difficult to function in a crowded and overstimulating office or workplace environment.

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