By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D
President, bSci21Media, LLC
With an unemployment rate near 80%, demand for jobs by individuals with autism is high. While jobs for those with autism and other disabilities is not unheard of, things are looking brighter these days.
For example, Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Worldwide Operations, Mary Ellen Smith recently announced a new initiative to hire individuals with autism. Actually, Microsoft has a long history of hiring people with disabilities through it’s Supported Employment program, but the new collaboration between Microsoft and Specialisterne marks a scaling-up specifically in regards to the autism community.
With locations in 11 countries, Specialisterne is a foundation that “works to enable one million jobs for people with autism and similar challenges through social entrepreneurship, corporate sector engagement and a global change in mind-set.”
Mary Ellen noted “people with autism bring strengths that we need at Microsoft, each individual is different, some have amazing ability to retain information, think at a level of detail and depth or excel in math or code.”
But Microsoft isn’t the only tech company recruiting individuals with autism. The multibillion dollar IT giant SAP announced a similar initiative last year. Thorkil Sonne, the founder of SAP’s Autism at Work program, noted “there is no reason why we should leave these people unemployed when they have so much talent and there are so many vacant jobs in the high tech sector.”
Part of the increasing employment trend relates to increased insurance coverage for autism treatment. Microsoft recently added coverage under its plan, and it was quickly followed by many other tech companies such as Intel, Qualcomm, Apple, Cisco Systems and Oracle.
For additional reading on employment opportunities for individuals with autism, see the Autism Speaks Employment Toolkit, and the TEACCH Autism Program designed to teach employment skills to individuals with autism.
Have you struggled finding employment for a friend or family member with autism? Do you have autism and struggling to find a job? Share your story in the comments below. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!
Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is President of bSci21 Media, LLC, which owns bSci21.org and BAQuarterly.com. Todd serves as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management and as an editorial board member for Behavior and Social Issues. He has worked as a behavior analyst in day centers, residential providers, homes, and schools, and served as the director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas. Todd’s areas of expertise include writing, entrepreneurship, Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, Instructional Design, Organizational Behavior Management, and ABA therapy. Todd can be reached at email@example.com.