Autistic Workers: Invisible People

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Virginia Tech

Existing literature about autistic workers concentrates on the troubles autistics have in the workplace; these problems are linked back to documented deficits in autistic people, thereby constructing a picture of autistic workers as people who need to be helped. There have been no academic studies asking autistic adults to give their general impressions on their work environments. The paucity of narratives from working autistic authorities has effectively made them into a hidden, or invisible population. We do not know if they agree with the views presented about them. We do not know what jobs they are in or in what levels of authority they are working. The only way to understand working autistic adults and their worth and presence in the workforce, is to ask them.

This exploratory, qualitative study asked 38 autistic adults (currently working or who have a past work history) 55 questions about their work environments. Most participants provided elaborative answers about their work experiences. Participant experiences often contradicted current literature about autistic adults or mentioned little known phenomenon. Confirmation of existing themes in autism literature was sometimes arguable. The narrative accounts gathered in this study give new opportunities for research into autistic adults and their places in society.

Critical Autism Studies, Sociology of Autism