More Employers are Realizing Autism Can Be an Asset – But Is That Enough?

There are an estimated 3.5 million Americans on the autism spectrum, a number that continues to grow. An estimated 50,000 people on the spectrum enter adulthood – and the potential workforce – each year.

Though many on the spectrum are considered high functioning, recent research finds that 40 percent of young autistic adults are unable to find employment. Across all ages, the number is even more staggering – with some research showing that upwards of 80 percent of those who fall on the spectrum are unemployed, despite the majority wanting employment.


Notwithstanding the number of people affected, there is scant research on autism in adults, with the vast majority of research on autism being on children. Researchers are just beginning to look into how people with autism fare once they reach adulthood, and politicians and employers are starting to consider how to better include adults on the spectrum in the workplace.

Those on the Spectrum Can Be Great Assets to the Workforce

The dismal employment rate of those on the spectrum belies the strengths they can bring to the workplace. Brenda Weitzberg, founder of Aspiritech, an organization started by parents of an autistic child that tests software for quality assurance, stated “The strength[s] of autism such as attention to detail, the ability to focus for long periods of time, technology skills, strong visual perception, all those fit beautifully within the task of software testing.” She continued, “Can we afford to waste that talent?”

AutismBrenda Weitzberg. (Credit: Source.)

Leslie Long, vice president of adult services for the advocacy group Autism Speaks, noted that sometimes idiosyncrasies can mask hidden talents, such as intense focus, or ease with numbers or patterns. “I mean, look at what happened with the housing bubble and the

financial market. It was a man on the spectrum who saw which mortgages were going to fall. And I don’t think that’s something an average person would have been able to do.”

Hindrances to Employment

Businesses can be hesitant to hire someone on the spectrum. Potential employers may have misconceptions about having to purchase expensive accommodations, or their hiring procedures may not be set up optimally for those of varying abilities.

Becky Ketts, director of rehabilitation services at Nobis Works, which specializes in job placement and training for those on the spectrum, said that interviewing in particular can be problematic for those with autism. “Even the thought of interviewing for a job can be overwhelming for someone on the autism spectrum. That is such an intimate setting. That alone can keep people from finding a job.”

AutismCredit: Source.

Dave Meador, vice chairman and chief administrative officer for DTE Energy Co. and founder of the Autism Alliance, said “the basic barrier is social issues. Unless an employer is trained on how to interview people with autism, an amazing candidate may get rejected because they had trouble making eye contact (a common characteristic for those with autism). Employers are missing out on opportunities to get great employees.”

Employers can also be ambivalent about hiring those on the spectrum because they are

unsure how they will perform on the job. “When it comes to questions from businesses, it is just communicating to them the facts,” said Cameron.

Companies Are Starting to Hire

As more companies become aware of the benefits of hiring those on the spectrum, more are beginning to hire those of differing abilities.

Ford Motor Company recently announced that it will be partnering with Autism Alliance of Michigan to provide employment for individuals with autism. Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president, said in a statement, “We are committed to making people’s lives better, and this pilot program has the potential to not only make the participants lives better, but also Ford be even more diverse and inclusive workforce. Autism affects many people in our communities, and I’m proud we’re taking on this important initiative.”

Raj Nair. (Credit: Source.)

Other large companies like Microsoft, Walgreens, Capital One, AMC, Bank of America and Procter & Gamble are also actively recruiting those on the spectrum.

Duke Roberson, at Bank of America’s support center in Dallas, manages a team of 75, all of whom have some form of disability. “There’s no charity to this at all,” he said, describing his employees’ high work ethic.

Smaller companies are also seeing the benefits of more diverse hiring practices. “We … need to make small businesses aware of the huge untapped resource that is people with diverse abilities. Hiring people who are physically, genetically or cognitively diverse is not

just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do,” said Terri Hogan, the owner of Contemporary Cabinetry in Ohio, which employs people with disabilities.

“Small businesses are in a position not only to develop new models that employ individuals with autism, but also to innovate in a way that directly responds to local labor market needs,” said Lisa Goring, executive vice president for programs and services Autism Speaks. “The connection many small businesses have with their community is vital to creating the partnerships necessary to transition young adults into the local workforce, share best practices with other local businesses, and nurture a workforce comprised of people with varying abilities.”

Is a Grassroots Movement Enough?

While companies are expanding their hiring practices to include those on the spectrum, some question whether internally-driven hiring changes will be enough to combat the low employment rate of those with autism.

Last month, House lawmakers looked into how to provide better employment options for Americans with developmental disabilities, including autism. “These individuals can be overlooked when employment opportunities arise, and too often they are shut out from the workplace all together,” said Republican Rep. Steve Chabot.

Steve Chabot. (Credit: Source.)

From a pure numbers standpoint, employing those with disabilities makes sense. “Estimated lifetime costs for supporting an adult with autism range between $1.4 million to $2.3 million, and the degree to which adults with autism fail to achieve independence contributes to increase lifetime care costs,” testified Goring. “Research shows that

employing individuals with autism, even with publicly-funded, intensive personal job supports, actually saves government costs by reducing the number of benefits that people with autism need when they are unemployed.”

Ann Cameron with Arc echoed these sentiments. “How will [the one in 50 children with autism] impact our schools, our offices? It is something that we have to open our eyes to. It is something that we really have to embrace,” she said. “We don’t have a choice of turning away – we have to employ these people.”

What an increasing number of employers are realizing is that hiring those on the spectrum is not about charity – it’s about finding great workers. And individuals on the spectrum are given greater opportunities to excel.

C-SPAN

If you think Fox News is the most loyal network to President Donald Trump, you likely haven't heard of One America News Network, or OAN.

The unabashedly pro-Trump network—largely considered a far-Right fringe outlet—has enjoyed expanded viewership over recent years thanks to glowing reviews from the President.

It's even been added to the prestigious White House press pool.

People were reminded of the network's bizarre Trump-era ascension during Monday's White House press briefing regarding the pandemic that—at the time of this writing—has resulted in over 3,000 deaths across the United States.

OAN's White House correspondent Chanel Rion compared the growing number of deaths from the pandemic to abortion procedures, asking Trump if abortions should be suspended all together.

The question flummoxed Trump himself.

Watch below.

Rion said:

"2,405 Americans have died from [the virus] in the last 60 days. Meanwhile, you have 2,369 children who are killed by their mothers through elective abortions each day. That's 16 and a half thousand children killed every week. Two states have suspended elective abortion to make more resources available...Should more states be doing the same?"

Even Trump seemed confused by the question, and notably didn't wade into the abortion aspect of the question:

"I think what we're doing, we're trying to, as a group ,governors—and that's Republicans and Democrats—we're just working together to solve this problem. What you're mentioning has been going on for a long time and it's a sad event, a lot of sad events in this country. But what we're doing now is working on the virus...and I think we're doing a great job—as good a job as you can possibly do."

People noticed that even Trump—either purposely or otherwise—didn't take the bait from one of his favorite networks.




Rion, who is Asian-American, previously made headlines when she asked Trump—who'd been criticized for describing the virus as "Chinese Virus"—if the phrase "Chinese food" was racist.

Her questions, while satiating viewers who prioritize "owning the libs" over potentially lifesaving information, have only confirmed the degradation of the press corps under the Trump era.




OAN's only redeemable quality? It doesn't claim to be "fair and balanced."


Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images // Duffy-Marie Arnoult/WireImage

Even in the face of a global pandemic, President Donald Trump hasn't dispensed with his typical pettiness.

The President made that perfectly clear on Sunday afternoon, as deaths caused by the national health crisis continued to increase.

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President Donald Trump held his pandemic press briefing in the Rose Garden on Sunday—but his mood was far from rosy.

One particularly heated exchange came when he took a question from PBS NewsHour's White House Correspondent Yamiche Alcindor.

Alcindor asked Trump about the the skepticism he expressed that New York—the epicenter of the health crisis facing the United States—was exaggerating the number of lifesaving ventilators it needs to help curb the virus.

Trump interrupted Alcindor, claiming he "didn't say" that, then proceeded to berate her for her so-called "threatening" question.

Watch below.

Alcindor asked:

"You've said repeatedly that you think that some of the equipment governors are requesting, they don't actually need. You said New York might not need 30 thousand—"

Trump interrupted:

"I didn't say that. I didn't say that. Why don't you people...why don't you act in a little more positive? It's always trying to get me. Getcha, getcha. You know what, that's why nobody trusts the media anymore."

Though the President didn't reciprocate, Alcindor remained professional and repeated her question despite the President's attacks on her journalistic integrity in front of her colleagues.

What's more, Alcindor was right—and video proves it.

Alcindor referred to statements Trump made on far-right Fox News host Sean Hannity's show.

Watch below.

Trump said:

"I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they're going to be. I don't believe you need 40 thousand or 30 thousand ventilators. You go into major hospitals sometimes, they'll have two ventilators and now all of a sudden they're saying, 'can we have 30 thousand ventilators?'"

Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has made clear that New York has yet to reach the height of the pandemic. The current number of ventilators is not enough to treat all of the infections to come, which could force doctors into rationing them and choosing not to treat patients with less optimistic prognoses.

Alcindor later pointed out that Trump did, in fact, express skepticism that New York was asking for ventilators they didn't need.

People called Trump out for responding to his own words with petty attacks.



They praised Alcindor for holding him accountable when so many others won't.




This was far from the first time Trump personally attacked Alcindor for doing her job.

Astonishingly, Trump denied his own words again in the same press conference when CNN reporter Jeremy Diamond asked Trump to elaborate on his Friday statements that governors aren't being "appreciative" enough of him and his administration.

If a President isn't beholden to congressional oversight, basic transparency, and even his own words, how can he be beholden to the American people?

For more stories of Trump's ineptitude from people who were there, check out A Very Stable Genius, available here.

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