While a U.S. government-funded job training program for people with autism has a high success rate, many who get jobs earn well below the federal poverty line, a new study finds.
“We found that over half of the people with autism who used Vocational Rehabilitation services got jobs,” said study author Anne Roux, a researcher at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute in Philadelphia.
The Vocational Rehabilitation system is one of the nation’s largest sources of public assistance for people with disabilities seeking work.
“While it was the same rate as people with other types of disabilities who used the program, the wages, hours worked and range of job types for people with autism were low — placing them at risk for poverty,” Roux explained in a Drexel University news release.
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, is the general term for a group of complex disorders of brain development. People with autism generally face difficulties with social interaction and communication.
The researchers found that the number of people with autism who applied to the Vocational Rehabilitation program more than doubled between 2009 and 2014 — from over 7,400 to more than 17,700. Of those who were eligible, 68 percent received job training.
Three out of five people with autism had a job when they left the program. Most were in office and administrative support, food preparation/serving and building/grounds cleaning and maintenance.
More than 80 percent had part-time jobs. Those with part-time jobs had a weekly median income of $160, well below the federal poverty line of $224 a week, the researchers noted.
The 20 percent with full-time jobs had a weekly median income of $380, according to the institute’s National Autism Indicators Report.
“Unemployment is a critical issue facing people [with autism] who have valuable contributions to make but not enough opportunities to have work,” said Paul Shattuck, leader of the institute’s Life Course Outcomes Research Program.
“Anything we can do to understand the support systems that are in place to secure employment for adults with autism will enable us to better assist this population in the future,” he said in the news release.
The Autism Society has more about autism and employment.