Finding and maintaining meaningful employment continues to be a major challenge for autistic adults. Unfortunately, the statistics are not very encouraging as approximately 80% of adults on the spectrum are either unemployed or underemployed after finishing high school. There are a number of job training options worthy of pursuit, although access to opportunity can be elusive. One area gaining momentum is starting a business based upon interests or natural ability. Admittedly, this is not a career path for the faint of heart – but more autistic adults are choosing entrepreneurship as a pathway to independence. Following the conventional custom of finding a job after high school simply has not panned out for many on the spectrum for various reasons. Those who are employed often work in a family owned business on a part-time basis or engage in seasonal employment.
What types of business opportunities are best suited for autistic adults? Obviously there is not a single category that attracts all people on the autism spectrum. In fact, there is considerable diversity among the occupational areas in which autistic adults are finding their way. Some fields are traditional, while others are surprisingly generating novel interest from members of the autism community. For a while software testers was all the rage whenever autism employment was mentioned in a conversation. The problem with that is the number of job openings for software testers is extremely limited, and even more important, not every autistic adult wants to engage in this type of work. With the continued resistance on the part of corporations to hire people with autism, many are taking matters into their own hands. Having an interest or natural inclination in cooking or art has lead to a number of bakeries or studios owned and operated by individuals with autism. Some are managed by a single person, while others employ other employees who are also on the spectrum. This model creates jobs for others and gives back to the larger community by way of civic responsibilities.
Below is a list of employment areas in which autistic adults have forged business opportunities, utilizing their talents to create a rewarding life for themselves.
1. Veterinarian Assistant – For animal lovers who enjoy caring for and providing treatment to injured animals, this can be extremely gratifying. While there are some autistic people who fear being in close proximity with pets, others simply love being around furry companions. The right person can thrive in this career choice, while working in an environment that provides a great deal of personal satisfaction.
2. Landscape Professional – Someone with an eye for design and a love for the outdoors could do quite well in landscaping. Modern designs are bolder and embrace colorful arrangements which express individual taste and creativity. Making use of various textures and open spaces can be challenging, yet rewarding for the person willing to promote themselves. Additionally, outdoor living space is a popular feature in home designs that bode well for future landscaping job opportunities.
3. Architect – Planning and designing structures for residential or commercial purposes requires a specific skill set. The combination of spatial recognition and mathematical ability can lead to a very gratifying career. Meeting the academic training standards may not appeal to everyone, but for those who enjoy creating blue prints and meeting with clients, this may be a viable option to consider.
4. Graphic Designer – In a digital world full of increasing online content, talented graphic designers are in demand. With a choice of platforms to work from, this is an area that's poised for growth. This is not for everyone as precision, accuracy, and meeting strict timelines can be stressful. With that in mind, it is a field worthy of consideration.
5. Coffee Shop Owner – The benefits of operating a coffee shop go far beyond serving up a great cup of brew. Local coffee shops have become a social gathering place for personal acquaintances and business professionals. Having good organizational skills is an absolute must, along with the ability to talk to strangers. This could be the pathway to personal and financial independence for highly motivated individuals.
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