By Elise Wulff, MEd
Senior Program Manager
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). As stated by the U.S. Department of Labor, “National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) celebrates the contributions of America’s workers with disabilities past and present and showcases supportive, inclusive employment policies and practices that benefit employers and employees.” This year, the recognition is particularly meaningful as we celebrate fifty years of the Americans with Disability Act of 1973 (ADA).
At Aspire, we celebrate Disability Employment Awareness all year long by providing our expertise on Neurodiversity in the Workplace to corporations both large and small. Below are some statistics regarding employment for individuals on the autism spectrum:
- In 2022, 21.3% of people with disabilities in the U.S. were employed. This is up from 19.1% in 2021. (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022)
- Estimates of the percentage of young adults with ASD in the United States who have ever been employed are between 53% and 58%, the lowest rate among disability groups. (Roux, 2013 and 2015; Shattuck, 2012)
- Most studies indicate that 75-85% of adults with Asperger’s Syndrome do not hold a full-time job.
Aspire’s internship program is on the front lines working to change these statistics and be sure that both individuals and companies have the tools they need to find and maintain productive, gainful employment. Why internships?
- Internships have been shown to increase accessibility to the workplace for autistic individuals in addition to facilitating a smoother transition to sustained employment. (Ghanouni & Raphael, 2022)
- Supported internships, specifically those aimed at supporting autistic adults without intellectual impairment, have been shown to improve other critical quality of life variables such as independence from caregivers, hygiene, social motivation, understanding, and increased self-efficacy. (Lee et al., 2019)
While Aspire works to directly match interns with strengths-based positions in companies committed to valuing Neurodiversity, we also need to address the long-time cultural challenges regarding accessibility and inclusion. Here are 5 things you can do to help make meaningful change in your workplace:
- Review your company’s current website and other external facing literature, specifically your Diversity, Equity, Inclusion mission for a mention of Neurodiversity. If missing, reach out to DEI leadership and/or Human Resources team to advocate for inclusion of ‘Neurodiversity’ in the mission. Advocate for workshops specific to fostering greater accessibility and inclusion of neurodiversity.
- Consider your current hiring practices to see if there is language inviting neurodiverse candidates to apply. If you are in a position that hires new employees, consider building an Interview Guide to give the candidate a preview of the expectations and some of the questions they will be asked.
- Research what internal options exist for shared discussion around Neurodiversity or for neurodiverse employees and/or allies to connect and share their experiences. This could be in the form of Employee Resource Groups, Affinity Groups, or on company-wide digital platforms used for connectivity.
- Assess your communication techniques in the workplace and be sure to balance oral communication with visual to ensure you are communicating information in a way that can be received by both auditory and visual learners.
- And, lastly, host an Aspire intern! For more information about becoming an Employer Partner, contact us at MGHAspire@partners.org.