Engaging Untapped Talent: Supporting Autistic Employees in Meaningful Employment Opportunity
Crissy Ortiz | 2018
Twenty-first-century organizations are operating amidst a complex, powerful, and fluid environment. Young adults poised to enter the workforce are a dominant force shaping and reshaping contemporary organizations. Amongst this diverse population of organizational entrants is a marginalized and untapped group of young autistic adults (Hillier et al., 2007; Parr & Hunter, 2014). According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016), nearly 500,000 autistic individuals are approaching an employable age. Yet, the group maintains higher than average rates of unemployment and underemployment (Hagner & Cooney, 2005; Hillier et al., 2007; Lorenz & Heinitz, 2014; Mawhood & Howlin, 1999; Müller, Schuler, Burton, & Yates, 2003; Parr & Hunter, 2014). F. M. Gwynette (personal communication, December 12, 2017) suggested the symptomatology of autism present barriers for young adults in acquiring and maintaining meaningful employment. Johnson and Joshi (2016) suggested autistic employees experience stigmas due to perceived social impairments. Perceived impairments present untraditional challenges within the workplace leaving employers uncertain of how to provide appropriate supports to engage autistic employees (Johnson & Joshi, 2016; Parr & Hunter, 2014). This bounded case study explored what organizations can do to engage autistic employees. The main theoretical frameworks that anchored this study were engagement, perceived organizational support, person–organization fit, person–supervisor fit, and person–job fit. Purposeful sampling was used to acquire a medical practitioner who specializes in autism spectrum disorder, a leader and self-advocate who managed autistic employees and serves as an autism consultant, and high-functioning autistic young adults (ages 18-35) with employment experience. The analysis for the study included in vivo coding and analytic memos (Saldaña, 2013). Results found individualized consideration as the cornerstone for organizational supports that engage the autistic cohort. Additional themes that emerged included areas such as wellness, acceptance, humility, intention, open-mindedness in leading, stability, predictability, assertive communication, demonstrations in learning, long-term support, and sensory support. The illuminated concepts and practical strategies enhance engagement of high-functioning young autistic adults in the workplace.
Keywords: accommodations, autism, autistic, employment, engagement, supports