No single job or type of job is ideally suited to every individual with an Asperger profile. Each individual has a unique collection of traits, skills, strengths, and challenges. It is essential that individuals become aware of their strengths and weaknesses before setting out to find a job that complements them.
Members of our community have been employed in a wide range of jobs, from highly skilled professions such as doctors, lawyers, and professors to more hands-on jobs like medical transcriber, state contract manager, mail center processor, data enterer, financial assistant, digital scanner, engineer tech, and animal caretaker.
Some individuals with Asperger profiles are unable to work. Others cannot manage full-time employment but do very well part-time. And some thrive in the structure and productivity of working full time. Every person’s “employment profile” will be different, and each one is valid and valuable.
These are some ideas regarding Asperger profiles and employment that can be very helpful to bear in mind. Due to the considerable variance from person to person, you may find that not all of these ideas are applicable for you. Consider this a guide to get you started.
- Highly structured and predictable. Does not involve strict time limitations or deadlines.
- Involves attention to detail.
- Does not involve planning or seeing the “gist” or whole picture.
- Allows the individual to have the type of schedule that works for him or her: for example, part-time, or working at night.
- Consider self-employment. When self-employed, individuals get to be their own bosses, choose the type of work they do and set their own schedules. This works best for people who can keep themselves organized and motivated. Or, they should not be afraid to hire somebody to do the aspects of the job that might be more difficult.
- Does not require a lot of sophisticated interpersonal skills.
- Quiet and calm, especially for those with sensory sensitivities.
- Clearly defined rules, expectations, and roles.
- Laid back: an understanding boss/supervisor, minimal time pressure, ability to work at own pace in own way.
- A supervisor who is open to and understanding of differences and allows for flexibility in order to accommodate needs.
- Minimal office politics.
- For a checklist to help you think about the right workplace environment for you, see the Employment Self-Inventory Scale.
- Individuals with Asperger profiles have the right to disclose and request accommodations at their place of employment. We suggest strategic disclosure:
- It is important to know why you are disclosing, as well as what you need to disclose and to whom.
- When telling an employer about Asperger Syndrome, keep to those traits that affect you, and suggest possible solutions to any difficulties on the job.
- It is important to disclose these issues before problems arise in the workplace.
- For a list of accommodations that might be helpful, see the disclosure checklist in the Disclosure Letter (disclosure_letter.pdf).
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employees with Asperger profiles and other Autism Spectrum Disorders are guaranteed reasonable accommodations and protected against discrimination on the basis of difficulties associated with their disability. The ADA defines disability as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities." Neurological differences such as Asperger profiles are not mentioned, but they are included under the (admittedly unflattering) category of "mental impairment."
Most employers are aware of and respect the ADA. However, in the event that your employment is threatened by something directly related to your Asperger profile (e.g., your need for a distraction-free workspace), you may need to appeal to the law. To read more about the ADA, visit the ADA website.
Other Important Points
Emphasize skills: many employees with Asperger profiles are loyal, reliable, honest, creative, intelligent, attentive to details, and able to follow directions exactly, among other skills.
Make an effort to learn the unwritten rules of the workplace, such as whom to ask when there are questions, personal and private boundaries, and information about bathroom breaks, phone and internet usage, etc.
Consider turning a special interest into a career. Though this may not work for everyone, if you are able to use your special interest in the workplace, this could be extremely rewarding.
Know your skills and strengths, and work to become comfortable with accepting your weaknesses and limitations. You are not expected to be good at everything!