Life on the Autism spectrum

Autism & getting a job

The autism spectrum incorporates a broad range of ability and many people on the spectrum are very successful at work. Other people may have difficulties at work and some people may remain unemployed. 
 
“I think we have a superior ability to concentrate on things”
Some people had successful careers. Various factors had contributed to this success, including advanced abilities in subjects such as science or art, having the right kind of support such as parents nearby, or a boss who understood their needs. A focus and attention to detail had helped some in their working lives.
One man worked with “good people and there is no pressure” which suited him very well. One woman worked part time at a dog rescue kennels which she enjoyed because she loved dogs. Another woman with a successful working life said that her employers sometimes forgot that she had problems; “I don’t think it’s done on purpose but because there is no physical reminder like a wheelchair or sticks, they forget”.
Some people had begun courses related to their special interests and hoped to get a job in a related area (see ‘Further education’).

Several people discussed their desire to get some form of paid employment working in various areas that were often related to their special interests. These included working with animals, computers, transport, working in the open air and in academia.  One man was hoping to set up an online business selling his photographs and was also considering a hairdressing apprenticeship. Another man wanted to get a job on the railways because he was so keen on trains.
One woman wanted to open her own rescue kennels and live by herself. Another said:
“I would like to see myself with a full time job. And not being, not being actually patronised or criticised or anything else for what I do. That is my idea but whether it will work is another matter because it would work if we actually got employers on my side, but it doesn’t always work like that.”
 
“If I didn’t have voluntary work I would just get bored”
Several people had difficulties with working and no longer had a paid job.  Some did voluntary work; one woman, for example, worked as a volunteer gardener and enjoyed it because she loved gardening and did not have to talk to people.
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A few people had begun to give talks to autism related support groups or do disability related voluntary work. As Mary said, “Voluntary work, I think, is really helpful because it’s just good.  It kind of stops you feeling lonely and if I didn’t have voluntary work, I would just get bored and fed up”.
Some people were unable to undertake paid employment because of severe learning or social difficulties. They attended day centres for a few days a week. Those people who were not in paid employment received benefits including Income Support, Incapacity Benefit and Disability Living Allowance*.
Being on benefits or allowances could cause problems if people wanted to work part time or take on a temporary position. Reapplying for benefits or going to tribunal to gain benefits could be stressful. 

*Income Support is being phased out and will be replaced by Universal Credit, Incapacity Benefit has now been abolished and has been replace by Employment and Support Allowance and Disability Living Allowance is being phased out for those over 16 and is being replaced by Personal Independence Payments see GOV.UK for more details.
 

Last reviewed July 2016.
Last updated July 2016.

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