Towards successful employment of adults with autism: A first analysis of special interests and factors deemed important for vocational performance
Background: Adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and with intelligence quotients in the normal range are disproportionately affected by unemployment.
Objective: We sought to assess special interests that could bear potential for employment as well as factors deemed relevant for work performance in adults with ASD.
Method: A newly compiled self-report online questionnaire was administered to high-functioning adults with ASD to assess special interests as well as factors that both interfere with and facilitate work performance.
Results: Participants reported that they spent an average of 26 hours per week on their special interests, and their average level of proficiency was rated as very good. Although special interests were reported to be in the social sciences and the creative fields as often as they were in the natural sciences and technology/engineering, the most common approach taken within those fields was systemizing rather than a creative or knowledge-acquiring pursuit. Social interaction problems with coworkers and superiors as well as sensory issues were most often rated as interfering with work performance. In addition, mental underload was rated as an important factor that interfered with work performance, whereas excessive demands were not. Among the factors most often reported to facilitate work performance were employers’ and colleagues’ awareness of the individual’s ASD diagnosis.
Conclusion: Our data suggest that special interests among individuals with ASD may bear important potential for employment. Given the focus on systemizing in this population, recent efforts to create job opportunities in the information technology sector specifically for high-functioning individuals with ASD are a promising start. However, these efforts should be expanded into other fields.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work’s authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal’s published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).