The Problem

1. High unemployment or underemployment rates among neurodivergent persons

  • While autistic adults have a desire to work and contribute they are often disadvantaged by traditional recruitment and hiring processes.
  • In March 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported that 85% of autistic people in the US are unemployed or underemployed. A 2016 study by the National Autistic Society in the UK arrived at a similar conclusion. A United Nations proclamation on World Autism Day 2016 estimated that more than 80% of autistic adults around the world are unemployed.


2. Invisible barriers created by employers

Recruitment processes, including job descriptions and interview processes, may eliminate neurodivergent job seekers from the selection pool before they have got the chance to showcase their skills and talents.

Employers must adapt their recruitment processes to be inclusive towards neurodivergent applicants. There are a number of guidelines to follow to make this happen, with the two most important being:

  • Replacing vague job descriptions (e.g. unrealistic expectations, skill requirements outside the scope of the advertised position and unnecessary use of buzz words such as ‘great team player’ or ‘problem solver on an international scale’)
  • Re-thinking conventional interviews (e.g. asking open ended questions such as ‘Where do you see yourself in 10 years?’ or judging the candidate based on their body language)

Adapting the recruitment processes to be inclusive is not enough on its own. Employers also need to take certain measures throughout the office space and company culture to ensure that neurodivergent employees thrive.


3. Limitations of the education system

Regardless their country of origin, neurodivergent children and youth face numerous barriers within the education system. As majority of neurodivergent children attend mainstream schools, it is crucial to meet all the students’ needs and create inclusive learning environments. According to a survey conducted in England, “fewer than half of autistic children and youth say they are happy at school. Seven in ten say that their peers do not understand them and five in ten say their teachers do not know how to support them.”

OECD emphasizes that “teachers need supportive policies and frameworks to provide quality learning experiences to all students and build on their diverse strengths.” Teacher trainings to educate neurodivergent students are currently considered to be inadequate and further professional capacity building should be put in place.

The main issue would be the other children. People who aren’t seen as “normal” will almost inevitably be bullied, making them less likely to want to interact with teachers/the class.

An anonymous self-advocate from the Specialisterne network

4. Lack of awareness and social stigma

According to the research by The National Autistic Society, autistic persons and their families are negatively affected by the lack of awareness and understanding of the condition. “Whether it’s in the community, at school, at work, or in social settings, autistic people are often misunderstood. They suffer discrimination, intolerance and isolation. For many that means a lifetime of exclusion from everyday society.”

World Health Organization (WHO) states that, worldwide, autistic persons are often subject to stigma, discrimination and human rights violations. Globally, access to services and support for autistic persons is inadequate.