Autism in the Workplace

Chances are, you know someone with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that the current prevalence rate for ASD is 1 in 59. Some people refer to ASD as an “invisible disorder” because unlike a physical disorder, the impact of one’s autism may not be as easily detectible to others. ASD is characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior. Autism is considered a spectrum disorder, meaning that each person has his or her own unique strengths and challenges within these areas.

People often think of ASD as only affecting children. However, autism is considered a lifetime disorder and individuals can experiences challenges into adulthood. One of the biggest challenges is finding employment. Nationally, 86% of adults with autism are unemployed in their communities, according to the National Autism Indicators report published by Drexel University’s Autism Institute. This is a staggering statistic given the fact that many of these individuals have an average or above average I.Q. Many experts in the field believe that the low employment rate is due to the challenges individuals with ASD experience in social communication. Oftentimes, individuals struggle with traditional screening and interview processes despite having the skillset to be successful on the job.

Dogtopia is committed to doing our part to lower the rate of unemployment by providing opportunities for individuals with autism in our daycare centers.  In April of this year, the Dogtopia Foundation released an Autism Employment Guide; providing pathways and helpful tools that will lead to successful employment.

The Dogtopia Autism Employment Manual recommends each Dogtopia daycare center identify a local autism organization to support recruitment goals. Collaborating with a local organization can ensure positive experiences as well as more effective and efficient processes for Dogtopia teams.  These organizations provide coaching for individuals with autism that may include interviewing skills, onsite training and assisting with basic needs such as helping with bus schedules. 

When given the opportunity, individuals with ASD can bring a unique perspective and understanding to a work environment. One person’s unique strengths may be a game-changer for an employer or organization. Additionally, the support and accommodations that help an individual with ASD be successful in the workplace are likely beneficial for all employees. Anecdotally, employees with autism also provide an employer with loyal employees who tend to have lower attrition rate and fewer absences.

According to Connie Emery-Walker, General Manager for Dogtopia of Tysons Corner, “Hiring individuals with autism is not an act of charity; it’s a good business decision that has positively transformed our workplace. We have hired 10 employees with autism.” 

Dogtopia is committed to providing employment to this deserving and underserved workforce.  We look forward to changing the lives of individuals with autism and their families across North America.