I wanted to take some time in my column this week to commend the job being done by the Wall Street Journal in covering the topic of employment and autism. A few years ago I started receiving Google Alerts on the topic of autism. This has given me the opportunity to get an email every morning with news and feature stories that are focused primarily on autism. One of the stories from the Wall Street Journal that really resonated was the recent “How Autism Can Help You Land a Job .”
I’m a statistic nerd and so I collect data to use to make my case for developing employment opportunities for those on the spectrum. The WSJ article notes that, “…according to disability experts … 85% of adults with autism are estimated to be unemployed.” It goes on to reference a study published last year in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry which indicates that only half of young autistic adults between the ages of 21 and 25 years old have ever held a paid job outside the home.
In addition, the article looks at how autism can be used as an asset if these companies play up to the interests of those individuals. The story goes on to discuss companies that are advocating for adults with autism in the workplace, such as German-based software company SAP, which has piloted programs in Germany, Ireland, India and at four of their offices in the United States. SAP’s goal is to make one percent of their workforce consist of adults with autism by 2020, because of the unique assets these individuals bring to the workplace.
It also provides an example of a 29-year-old man with Asperger’s syndrome named Patrick Brophy who was hired by SAP last July. According to the article, Brophy holds an undergraduate degree in Computer Science and a Master’s degree in Multimedia Systems which include website development and editing. Brophy was looking for a full-time job for several years but had difficulty with interviewing. SAP looked past that and saw his skills.
Brophy’s story reminded me a great deal of my own. We both received Master’s degrees, we both are employed full-time, and we both have interests that help us succeed when given the opportunity.
Another WSJ article I would recommend is, “Training Program Helps Students with Autism Land Jobs .”
I’m a firm believer that we need publications such as The Wall Street Journal to emphasize these types of stories and encourage others to do the same. The Centers for Disease Control recently came out with new autism prevalence numbers  that indicate 1 in 68 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with autism. I worry that stories on children with autism will dominate these conversations for the entire month and that adult issues will be forgotten.
While we focus on the CDC statistic, I hope that other numbers—such as the 1 in 500,000 children with autism who will reach adulthood within the next decade—will share the media stage. This is necessary because as autistic children age, programs and services must become available to follow them throughout lifespan.
As we shine the Light on Autism for Autism Awareness Month let’s hope each April in the future the light will become brighter and brighter with stories of successful employment of adults on the spectrum.