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Autism and the workplace



According to the Centre for Disease Control (2014) one percent of the world’s population has autism.  In 2015, Australia estimated that 164,00 persons was diagnosed with Autism representing 1 in every 150 persons.  The numbers have significantly increased over the years and the estimates are based on statistics received between 2009 and 2015.  The statistics are based on diagnosed cases of ASD.

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Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder.   It is a disorder that impairs a person’s ability to communicate and interact.  The complexities of the diagnosis are found in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual Volume 5.  This is the latest Manual which provides the criteria for the diagnosis of ASD.  The main characteristics are consistent social problems with the inclusion of difficulty to communicate and interact with people, repetitive behaviors and limited interests or activities and h3 sensory sensitivities.

There is no known cause for the neurodevelopmental disorder.  According to research the causes are genetics and environmental factors.


Children and young persons diagnosed with autism face several barriers and the school system is exposed with children with this condition are not equipped to support their parents or the children.  The five common school difficulties for a person between five and twenty years of age is fitting in socially, learning, communication and intellectual difficulties and remaining still in classrooms.  The issues are more complex and teachers in the classrooms deem it as behavioral rather than developmental.



In the workplace persons diagnosed with ASD are attached to supported employment facilities.  The adults with a diagnosis have existed the education system may be highly qualified but without the skills and communication skills to collaborate with employers or peers in the workplace.

There are individuals in the workplace that have not been formally diagnosed and have managed to complete or not complete their education and find themselves in the workplace without supports and these individuals move from job to job.  Their difficulties are identified as individuals with difficult personalities.   Some of the employment difficulties are:

  • No Team Building skills
  • No ability to socialize
  • Difficult Relationships with authority figures
  • Not assertive
  • No awareness of safety in the work environment to self or others
  • Vulnerable to harassment or bullying
  • Time management
  • Difficulties with change in routine

There are no two autistic persons that are alike, and the list of difficulties can be endlessly.  In a nutshell, the difficulties are in communication with others, social interaction, coping with change and a need for and maintaining routine, any change to the routine can cause disruption, concentrating and focusing on relevant information, inability to time manage and are stressed easily.

Finding Help

Asking questions and providing information to your doctor or health care provider to receive a diagnosis is important.  Talking with your doctor builds trust and connections to the appropriate allied health professionals for support to learn skills and cope with anxiety.


Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2019.  ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2010. Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers 2009.

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