A worrying fact – only 16% of autistic adults are thought to be in full-time employment in the UK.
In case you’re wondering what the overall figure is for adults in full-time employment, it’s well over 60%. The Tories might be intent on taking us into full blown economic winter but full-time employment rates aren’t set to fall to one in seven any time soon.
I say it’s worrying and it is of course, but it’s also not quite the right thing to be worried about.
My eldest son is autistic, do I want him to find employment? If pushed, I would say I do, nobody is going to respond with ‘no, not really’ if someone asks them if they want their kids to get jobs.
However, I think there’s an unsaid assumption or at least there should be.
Any parent worth their salt wants their children to have fulfilling jobs, they want their children to have a certain type of job, or for employment to illicit certain feelings in them.
Nobody wants their children to have jobs they hate.
[bctt tweet=”What I hope is that both my child finds fulfilment, I couldn’t really care precisely how many hours they work per week to be honest.” via=”no”]
What I hope is that both my children find fulfilment, I couldn’t really care precisely how many hours they work per week to be honest. And, if fulfilment isn’t always possible, I at least want them to avoid being stuck in an environment that makes them unhappy.
What is this fulfilment? It doesn’t mean a job that is well paid, or even one that might be deemed fascinating if you were to answer that oft-asked question of ‘so, what is it you do?’
Fulfilment is just doing things that you feel have value, things you can excel at, things that give you a long-lasting positive feeling rather than just a short hit.
Any Job Can Be Fulfilling, Any Job Can Be Unsuitable
It could be working as a tree surgeon, an actor, coding, serving customers at a bank, stocking shelves, delivering goods, making videos or any one of a million other things.
Equally, any one of those could lead to unhappiness.
Statistically, it is undeniable that any autistic child is likely to face a struggle to find full-time employment, but that shouldn’t lead to a desire to push this individual into any old job.
The aim cannot be just to move the dial from that 16% figure, that should happen but as a bi-product of something more important.
The bigger crime is that so much potential for fulfilment and so many skills are wasted. This affects the individuals but also a wider society that would be enriched if more people were able to do the things for which they have a talent and in which they took great pride
It won’t be easy, most interview processes would not be described as autism friendly, nor would many workplaces. Even if an autistic adult finds what might seem the right job, it might then become untenable because the environment proves unsuitable.
That’s what I worry about – not that my son won’t be part of the 16% but that he won’t be part of the even smaller group who find the right outlets for their talents and interests.