October is National Disability Employment Awareness (NDEA) Month - Touchstone

October is National Disability Employment Awareness (NDEA) Month 

The US Department of Labor recognizes the contributions people with disabilities have made and continue to make to our workforce.  They have designated this year’s theme as “Disability: Part of the Equity Equation.”

Unfortunately, equity does not yet exist in the workforce for those with disabilities, including those on the spectrum. Studies estimate a staggering 50-75% of the 5.6 million autistic adults in the U.S. are unemployed or underemployed. Nearly 50% of 25-year-olds with autism have never held a paying job, despite having the skill sets and expertise to excel in the workplace.


One element of the hiring process that is usually critical to securing employment is the interview.  Interviews are often conducted face-to-face and require the applicant to have sustained social interactions, respond to social cues and nuances as well as effective verbal communication.  Deficits in social and communication skills are part of the diagnostic criteria for autism, yet for many jobs those skills are not required to do the job well. By relying on traditional interviews and standard hiring processes, employers are missing out on valuable opportunities to enrich and diversify their workforce with qualified workers.


This month we are offering tips for creating a welcoming environment when hiring people with autism:


Individualize the interview: Allow for accommodations during the interview process and allow for various types of interviews such as phone and written interviews. This allows for a support person to attend.


Observe the applicant’s skills:  Use a “show me” rather than a “tell me” approach. Watching an applicant perform can give a more accurate portrayal of their ability to do a job than relying on a verbal report.


Understand gaps in (or non-existent) employment history: Given the difficulty many autistic people have in gaining employment, a lack of a work history is not indicative of an ability to do a job well.


Train your team: Provide opportunities for your employees to learn about autism and other disabilities along with how they can support coworkers.


Reach out to local disability service providers:  Autistic people may not be on social media or have job opportunity notifications turned on.  Local providers can help employers contact an untapped workforce.


It’s good for the bottom line: Aside from supporting equity in the workplace, there are many financial benefits for employers.  Companies who hire people with disabilities outperform their peers. Some studies report 87% of consumers would rather buy services and goods from businesses that employ people with disabilities.


Here are a few resources for learning more about National Disability Employment Awareness Month and hiring autistic people:



The information provided in this blog is for educational purposes only and does not substitute for guidance from a behavior analyst or other healthcare provider.


We recognize the uniqueness of every person and the information included in this post may not be appropriate or relevant for everyone.

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