The Costs and Benefits of Employing an Adult on the Autism Spectrum
Objectives: This study examined the costs and benefits of employing adults on the autism spectrum, from the perspective of employers.
Methods: An online survey of 59 employers employing adults on the autism spectrum in open employment was conducted. Employers were asked to compare employees with and without autism on the basis of job similarity.
Results: Compared with employees without autism, employees on the autism spectrum demonstrated increased attention to detail (55% vs 19%), a higher work ethic (71% vs 30%) and consistently produced work of superior quality (41% vs 26%). Challenges associated with employing adults on the autism spectrum included following instructions (14% vs 4%), being flexible (28% vs 8%) and perseverating on work tasks (16% vs 8%). While the mean hourly wage for employees on the autism spectrum was lower ($21.84/hour), compared to their co-workers’ wage ($23.49/hour), this study found no significant differences between employees with and without autism with regard to weekly supervision costs, weekly costs to the employers and costs related to workplace training and modifications. Additional benefits of employing an adult on the autism spectrum included increased autism awareness in 59% of workplaces, and in 55% of workplaces promoting a culture of inclusion. More than 60% of employers reported that they would recommend employing an adult on the autism spectrum to a business associate, with very few responding that they would not.
Conclusions: Employing an adult on the autism spectrum provided many benefits to employers and their organisations without incurring additional costs over and above that associated with any new employee. The results also showed that employing adults on the autism spectrum contributed to new and innovative ideas and can have a positive impact on workplace culture and attitudes, but highlighted the need for support for employers through autism awareness and education in the workplace.