Corporate Internships Benefit Autistic Workers

Drew Sansing  |  28/05/2023

Despite wanting to work and the valuable contributions they can make to the workplace, autistic individuals frequently experience difficulty finding a job and staying employed. Corporate internships can be an excellent way for those with autism to showcase their skills within a longer trial period so that companies that might be hesitant to hire them can see what they are really capable of doing.

To further explore whether internships can benefit autistic employees, a study out of the United Kingdom was done to review the experiences of those participating in a mixed internship program that employed both autistic and non-autistic individuals.

The study involved a three-month internship at Deutsche Bank, UK comprised of 31 participating interns, 16 of whom were autistic and 15 of whom were non-autistic, and their respective managers. There were 16 managers for the autistic interns and 5 for the non-autistic interns. The interns worked in a range of roles, including finance, IT, operations, and human resources, and were further supported by a job coach throughout the internship. Data was obtained using online questionnaires and interviews conducted before and after the internship.


Autistic Individuals' Experiences:Autistic individuals highlighted several challenges they faced during the internship program. Communication difficulties emerged as a significant barrier, particularly in navigating social interactions and understanding unwritten workplace norms. Sensory sensitivities, such as noise or bright lights, also posed challenges in the corporate environment. However, participants expressed a strong desire to succeed and actively sought strategies to overcome these barriers, including relying on their special interests and employing meticulous planning.
Non-Autistic Individuals' Perceptions:Non-autistic participants acknowledged that working alongside autistic interns provided a unique learning experience. They appreciated the diverse perspectives and strengths autistic individuals brought to the team. However, some non-autistic participants admitted feeling unsure about how to interact with their autistic colleagues or how to provide appropriate support. Education and training programs were suggested as valuable tools to foster understanding and create a more inclusive workplace culture.

Benefits of Inclusion:

Both autistic and non-autistic participants, as well as their managers, recognized the benefits of inclusion in the workplace. Autistic individuals emphasized that their unique talents and skills, such as attention to detail and exceptional memory, contributed positively to their work performance. They highlighted the importance of creating an environment that values and supports neurodiversity. Non-autistic participants emphasized the positive impact of inclusive practices on team dynamics and overall productivity.


The findings of this study shed light on the experiences of autistic and non-autistic individuals participating in a corporate internship scheme. The challenges faced by autistic individuals were primarily related to communication difficulties and sensory sensitivities. However, the study also highlighted the unique strengths and perspectives that autistic individuals bring to the workplace, emphasizing the importance of embracing neurodiversity.

The study found that the autistic interns were able to overcome many of their challenges with the support of their managers and the job coach. For example, the managers provided clear instructions and feedback, and allowed the interns to work in quiet spaces when needed. The job coach also provided support with communication and social skills, and helped the interns to develop coping strategies for managing anxiety.
Managers noted a few key factors for internship success. They felt that it was important to integrate the autistic interns into their groups so that they felt like part of the team. Managers also noted that interns’ job skills needed to be well matched to the roles for which they were hired.The interns also needed to be assigned meaningful and appropriate work. Managers also recognized, like the interns, the importance of effective communication.

Recommendations for Improvement:
Participants from both groups offered valuable suggestions to improve the internship program for autistic individuals. These recommendations included providing clear instructions and expectations, offering sensory-friendly workspaces, implementing mentorship programs, and fostering open communication channels. Additionally, developing training sessions for non-autistic colleagues to promote understanding and create a supportive environment was deemed essential.

Overall, the study highlights the importance of providing appropriate support to autistic interns to enable them to overcome the challenges they may face in the workplace. The study recommends that organizations provide clear communication and feedback, opportunities for quiet work spaces, and support with social and communication skills, among other things.

The article provides valuable insights into the experiences of autistic and non-autistic individuals in the workplace, and highlights the benefits of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The study demonstrates that with appropriate support, autistic individuals can succeed in a range of roles and make valuable contributions to their organizations.  By embracing neurodiversity, companies have the opportunity to harness the strengths of all individuals and create a more innovative and successful workforce.

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