"I am fairly convinced that America is not really aware of the pending tsunami of burden that the current autistic rate will put on our workforce and adult support services in the next 10 to 20 years," said one father of a 14-year-old autistic son.
He's not alone in his concerns. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 68 American children lie along the Autism spectrum. That number is far higher than in years past, likely reflecting greater awareness of the condition and changing diagnostic standards. Still, the overall number of autistic children has increased. And autism is not simply a disorder of childhood -- it follows people into adulthood and into the workforce.
Some companies see this as an opportunity. German software giant SAP wants to have 1 percent of its workforce be autistic by the year 2020. This is not altruism. The company believes autistic employees will benefit their business, according to The Wall Street Journal. According to Jose Valasco, head of the autism initiative for SAP, people with autism have characteristics that SAP needs in software testers or debuggers.
"School-to-work programs foster success" because the preparation readies not only the autistic person but also the workforce for what to expect," Pacelli writes. She also advises that the traditional job interview may not be the best way to evaluate an autistic job candidate. Rather, "Offering a practice activity, such as proofing a sample document for an editing position may be the best way for him to demonstrate his abilities, and can help employers make a more accurate hiring decision."