32 Autism at Work Priorities We Need to Talk About

Rachel Worsley  |  03/08/2023

Although there has been growing research into neurodiversity, there are still lots of areas about autism at work that we still need to cover. 

A UK study of 197 autistic adults unearthed 32 key priorities for work-related research. Here are these 32 key priorities below. Do you agree with what is listed? What else would you add to this list? Send any feedback to rachel@neurodiversitymedia.com.

  1. Research highlighting “types of jobs that suit autistics”, the “fields which are more autism-friendly” than others and “employers that actively recruit autistic people”. 
  2. Mentoring which employed autistic adults might give to autistic school leavers about to enter the workplace
  3. There’s a need to find more jobs for autistic people, but what about careers for autistic people? 
  4. Government backed schemes to improve accessibility of employment with autistic people
  5. How autistic people can best get what they need without having to disclose personal information to an employer that they don’t fully trust
  6. What are the different ways of disclosing autism in the workplace?
  7. Making it normal for autistic people to disclose their diagnosis from their outset, like saying that I speak English as as second language or I’m left handed
  8. How more than one ‘persona-trait’ (e.g., being autistic and being a woman, and/or being of nonwhite ethnicity, and/or being physically disabled) [may] impact even more negatively on judgements in employment situations”
  9. Participants felt it was important for research to highlight “autism friendly recruitment best practice”  and indicate “how application [and] recruitment processes could be made easier and more practical for people with autism.
  10. “[research] the level of stigma and discrimination autistic people encounter in the workplace” and to determine “how far discrimination is responsible for the appallingly low rates of employment among autistic people” 
  11. Participants expressed a need for research to contribute to the development of “interventions and schemes (and not just compulsory e-learning) which reduce the likelihood of bullying of autistic people in the workplace”. Ultimately, participants hoped that research could help to “remove the judgement and discrimination” that autistic people face in the workplace, and “drive changes that make autistic employees feel welcomed, valued and advocated for” 
  12. research to “question the neurotypical style and methods of communication as being the ‘default’ against which autistic people are judged” and “raise better awareness [of autism]”
  13. They felt such research could result in a “better understanding amongst neurotypicals of how to make autistic employees feel included and how to interact with us effectively”
  14. “up-to-date autism training which challenges stereotypes” 
  15. “it would be excellent if neurotypical employers became more aware of what autistic people have to offer and accept them as being of equal worth
  16. “it would be great if researchers would be able to prove that employing people on the spectrum is beneficial and how
  17. “does autism training improve autistic people’s experiences in the workplace?”
  18. training can be given to give people knowledge but how do we measure if their attitudes have changed?
  19. [I would like to see] training programs for autistic students about office politics and networking skills, and how they can use these to advance their careers
  20. “[I would like to see research on] how to best support professionals in the workplace. I can find quite a bit of information about starting jobs or support in non-professional level jobs but not that much that’s been helpful for me
  21. many participants reported experiencing being “made to feel inadequate” for requesting adjustments or felt that organisations were simply offering adjustments “to earn some sort of invisible ‘good company’ points”
  22. [I would like research to identify] what accommodations are the most widely used [and] most effective”, so autistic people can advocate for the adjustments they may require
  23. Quantifying how [productivity] improves when adjustments are made would also be very helpful. Being able to tell a company that they can expect a certain percentage improvement in productivity by making adjustments is very powerful
  24. what do autistic careers/professional lives/jobs over a lifetime look like?”  and “what does successful work look like for autistic adults?” 
  25. “do people on the spectrum get paid fairly? [And] do we get promoted at the same rate?”
  26. “More guidance about how autistic people can successfully progress”
  27. many “undiagnosed autistic people [who] have successful careers”  and wanted research to highlight more successful case studies to “figure out what went right. How did they find a rewarding career that didn't involve playing the corporate game of thrones? What career guidance did they get? Where did they find out about the opportunities they took?”
  28. participants reported wanting more research aiming to understand such transitions, including “how did the job end? Why did the job end?” and “the experiences of autistic people who have lost their job as a result of their autism”
  29. Participants also highlighted a need for more research examining the transition to retirement, and how autistic people can be best supported in “preparing for retirement”
  30. Accordingly, participants reported a need for research to highlight “the effect of corporate culture on mental health” and “inform changes to enable all autistic people to be able to work if they wish … in physical and cultural work environments that have a positive – rather than detrimental – effect upon their mental health” .
  31.  called for research to “make it so we don’t have to mask, so we can have a job and feel like we are being part of the world like everyone else
  32. Participants noted that involvement in research should extend beyond simple participation and should involve autistic people “as co-researchers or advisors.”
  33. Widen the diversity of autistic people recruited to studies

Summary of 32 Priorities

  1. Autistic people’s access to employment
  2. highlight current opportunities for suitable employment, such as autism-specific employment opportunities
  3.  explore autistic people’s experiences of disclosing their diagnosis
  4. explore the impact of having an intersectional identity (e.g., minority gender/ethnicity/socioeconomic background, and being autistic) on employment experiences
  5. highlight how to improve hiring processes.

2. Organisational Culture

  1. Exploring autistic employees’ experiences of stigma and discrimination at work
  2. Developing and evaluating interventions to improve non-autistic employees’ attitudes toward autistic people
  3. Examining and evaluating how autistic people could be better supported at work
  4. Identifying which workplace adjustments may be useful for autistic people

3. The Full Employment Cycle 

  1. Autistic people’s experience of career progression and transitioning out of employment, due to job termination, or retirement 

4. Non-inclusive work environments 

  1. Masking in the workplace 
  2. The negative impact of a non-inclusive workplace environment on mental health

5. Autistic People’s Involvement in Research

  1. Include autistic people as co-designers in research
  2. Increase the diversity of people in autism research

See the original study here

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