The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately one in 59 children is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. For those on the spectrum, the odds are against them going to college and working. The unemployment rate for autistic adults remains disproportionally high, with nearly half of 25-year-olds with autism never having held a job.
Some companies are now hiring more individuals on the spectrum, recognizing that autistic adults can be valuable employees, and neurodiversity can be beneficial to the workplace. But doing so requires a lot of support and training for these young people, some of it starting at the high school level.
Peter Cappelli is a Wharton management professor and director of the school’s Center for Human Resources. He cites an increased awareness of autism in the workplace. But, he says, “sometimes they may think there are a lot of accommodations required, but typically, the accommodations are pretty trivial. The complication they’ve got is [other people] just feel uncomfortable around them. And the heart of that seems to be, frankly, the perception that people with disabilities are uncomfortable or in pain or struggling.”
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