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Autism Awareness Month brings light to employment hardship

Evan Halpop, Staff Reporter

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It is no joke that individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have a harder time reading nonverbal social cues than neurotypicals or nonautistic individuals, and on top of that, there is another barrier that individuals with

Employment.

While getting into a career takes effort for anyone, it can be much more difficult for people who have ASD to secure a job.

Scott Badesch, the president of the Autism Society of America, says that in the United States, at least 70 percent of adults impacted by autism are either unemployed or underemployed.

“There are companies that don’t see the value in hiring people with autism,” Badesch said. “Barriers also include discrimination, workplaces that aren’t autism friendly and lack of accommodations to be successful.”

Despite the grim hiring trends, there has been a growing trend in recent years with some companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Bank of America and Walgreens, to name a few. This has been accomplished partly due to the education about ASD and work programs through state Vocational Rehabilitation programs to help those who live with ASD find jobs.

Though this is a nationwide problem, there are still people right on campus who are directly affected by these trends.

“There are about 100 individuals who are diagnosed with ASD who have disclosed to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater that they are on the spectrum,” said Karen Fisher, the disability service coordinator in the Center for Students with Disabilities.

Within the Center for Students with Disabilities is Employment Connections. Giorgianne Maziarka, who manages Employment Connections, says that for many, it is the little parts of the interview that are the hardest.

“The biggest barrier to employment to people on the spectrum would be the interview process and soft skills,” Maziarka said.

Employment Connections works with the Wisconsin Department of Vocational Rehabilitation to help not just people with ASD but other disabilities as well get internships or jobs.

“Employers are missing out on highly skilled potential employees by not hiring individuals with autism,” Maziarka said.

Josh Howard, a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater who is studying communications says he wants to go into full time marketing and sales for a radio station, while disc jockeying on the side. Howard has Asperger’s Syndrome, which is part of the Autism Spectrum.

“Sometimes we have to speak up, there is a time and for everything,” Howard said.

Even though jobs may seem to be an impossible dream for individuals with autism to achieve at times, working together to educate the public on autism and giving people on the spectrum a chance to be employed might bring out the best in society.

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Bringing awareness to unknown struggles