As increasing numbers of children and adults are identified as having either Autism or Asperger Syndrome, there will inevitably be more studies done to study specific employment issues. The authors solicited information from six adults with Asperger syndrome (AS), a classification, which they used synonymously with high-functioning autism, to determine what they had experienced in the world of work. While the study makes no attempt to generalize this anecdotal information to all individuals with AS, it does present certain consistent themes for these six individuals.

Female Supervisor Using Digital Tablet At Warehouse

One theme was that of frequent job changes, periods of unemployment, and working at jobs for which they were overqualified. Four of the six individuals had college degrees, and one of them had two masters degrees. Fairly typical is the case of Rosalind, a 43 year-old woman with an accounting degree and a fairly recent diagnosis of Asperger syndrome. She chose her college major despite having no real interest in the subject matter, did poorly in school, and after years of failed attempts at whatever job she could get, found some degree of enjoyment and success working in a pre-school for children with special needs.

These individuals all felt that they would have experienced a more consistent level of employment were it not for problems related to socialization and interpersonal communication with co-workers.

Being too literal, asking too few or too many questions, and stressing over the unwritten rules of the workplace were reasons given for not being successful on a job. “Joe” shared the following: “I think that jobs usually are 80% social (conversation, lunch, breaks, chit-chat) and 20% work. People with autism are better the other way around.”

Those who had been in supported employment programs reported that job coaches had been a tremendous help, particularly in regard to fostering communication. However, either with or without the services of a job coach, most agreed that whatever success they had came from a very clear understanding of employer expectations “in writing, explained in the minutest detail.”

In several of the case studies, employment difficulties also had led to treatment for depression. This finding was based on the individual’s self report of treatment so untreated depression among adolescents and adults with Asperger syndrome could be very pervasive. The authors’ conclusions provide an extremely helpful overview of the variety of difficulties that persons with AS or high-functioning Autism might experience. Structure, order, routines, and clear rules and assignments are keys to help promote vocational success.

Hurlbutt, K. & Chalmers, L. (2004). Employment and adults with Asperger syndrome. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 19(4), 215-222.

Published in the VCU Work Support Website:

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  1. I have a 23 year old daughter that has Aspergers. She’s studying computer animation and will graduate in a year. I’ve often wondered if it would be appropriate to state on her resume that she has Aspergers.

    Does anybody have knowledge or experience with this?


    1. Tom,

      Unfortunately I’ve found in my own search for employment that mentioning my ASD diagnosis always seemed to only drop me a few places on an employer’s list of candidates. As much as employers aren’t supposed to be influenced by that sort of information it can and does have a negative effect unless that employer is already known to be accommodating towards individuals with disabilities.

  2. Hi,I have a 29 year old son with Asperger’s Syndrome, he has had this illness for 10 years, he lives in a rental apartment in Richmond,he basically doesn’t do anything for himself apart from sleep and go out to buy food,he gets board a lot and sometimes mixes with the wrong crowd.
    Can you please email me some info on activities, meetings, for his illness and age group.
    Do you have contacts with a mentor or support worker who can help him.

    Regards Connie

  3. Interesting article.
    I suffer or have Autism Spectrum Disorder/Condition of the Asperger Syndrome Variety.

    I also have had major problems all my life with finding suitable employment and sustaining it.
    I feel that part of my difficulties is due to the area that i live, which is on an island whose economy is centred around the finance industry.

    The finance industry in the island that i live is extremely conservative, and requires a great deal of social interaction including a lot of fraternising and sycophancy (in my opinion).
    Fraternising and sycophancy are not activities that i want to participate in, even it doing so would be to my advantage. I am very honest and rigidly so, so i do not do it.

    Unfortunately, my lack of dishonestly equates to a lack of credibility in the work place, as i can not flirt, lie, or manipulate my way up the corporate ladder. I will also not stoop to the morally low depths that many bank workers will to progress up the corporate ladder.

    Although, in a moral universe you would expect my honest and good nature to be rewarded but I realise now fairly late in life that the very personality traits that one would think would be good for a business, are often traits that many businesses would prefer to do without apart from when they want to promote such traits to increase their companies image.

    Inevitably, i have spent all my life going from one job to another, usually with a lengthy period of unemployment, being bullied in the jobs that i do get, which I am usually over qualified for, being given lower pay than less experienced colleagues and being treated either like a door mat, a work horse or someone to ridicule.

    While i endure this mistreatment in these various areas, all the employment in the areas that i do actually have experience and qualifications in are given to people who have no experience or little experience in the areas or who get into the work place using some other manipulative method.

    So, now, at the age of 44 years old. I still remain unemployed, despite being educated to Degree level from a world famous university. I am homeless (i am forced to live in a guest house temporarily – where i have already been for over 6 months partly because the local housing providers do not have any specialist housing for someone such as myself, who has autism with sensory processing problems).

    I am unlikely now to ever have children, and even if i do, i am not sure how i will be able to look after them with all the communication and anxiety problems that come with Autism.

    Lastly, i am not sure if i will ever get married again or even involved with another woman. As the last time i did, i was taken in by a con-artist woman who stole from my family and i, then committed adultry, and then slandered me to the world before committing several violent assaults against me with out reason.

    Presently, i think that living with autism in a world that does not understand autism is very difficult and that there is more needed in terms of understanding that the world needs to address before people with autism are treated fairly and given the opportunities that they deserve.


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