by Kathy Kirchoff
There are varying degrees of autism. If you have high-functioning autism or an autism spectrum disorder like Asperger's syndrome, you can use your unique talents to have a successful and satisfying career. More companies are seeing the value those with autism can bring to their companies.
Many people struggle to find work that is a good fit for them. The key is to get to know yourself and what your special talents, passions, and interests are—even if they seem unusual—and to strengthen them. Those with high-functioning autism or an autism spectrum disorder often are visual, verbal, or math thinkers:
- Verbal learners love lists and numbers and often good with facts and foreign languages. Career paths may include: journalism, legal research, accounting, history, statistics, or computer programming.
- Visual thinkers think in pictures. Career paths of interest might include: architecture, engineering, graphic arts, machine maintenance, plumbing and analysts.
- Math thinkers love math and music. Careers might be in: physics, music, financial investments, research, and electronics.
Explore other careers common to people with autism. Small business and self-employment can also offer you greater flexibility and fewer distractions or rules, and you can customize the type of work to your needs and strengths.
If you're still not sure which career is right for you, consider volunteering, internships, or a part-time job to help you explore your career options. There are also a number of free online assessments to help you:
Succeeding in the Workplace
Everyone faces workplace challenges. With high-functioning autism or an autism spectrum disorder, you may struggle in certain areas more than your coworkers. Keep in mind that in most fields, social skills are just as important as technical skills. Finding ways to improve these will help you to interact with your supervisor and coworkers:
- Pay attention to other people’s needs.
- Put yourself in social situations even if they are outside your comfort zone.
- Find a mentor (or "wingman") to help you learn how to navigate social situations.
If you're feeling overwhelmed by your workload, the following may help you stay focused:
- Make lists to help keep yourself organized and on task.
- Plan your schedule around those times when you are most productive.
- Try to eliminate distractions.
- Avoid multi-tasking.
Consider asking for workplace accommodations if you are have difficulties at work.
With thoughtful career planning and effective social and work skills, you can be successful in the workplace.