April 2, 2023
Autism Awareness Day: Autism & Employment
Autism and Employment
What is Autism?
To honour World Autism Awareness Day, it's important that we educate ourselves on statistics, history, barriers, and misconceptions about persons with Autism. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is classified by the American Psychiatric Associations, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-5, as a neuro-developmental condition that impacts the development of one’s brain. Impairments can affect the ability to speak and negatively impact non-verbal communication and social interactions that may be combined with repetitious behaviours and interests. ASD is unique in that the term ‘spectrum’ encompasses a continuum of strengths and challenges directly affecting people with autism’s ability to learn, think and problem solve. The DSM-5 edition was released in May of 2013 and acts as a guiding tool for healthcare professionals in diagnosing mental health conditions. This edition has developed an updated criteria for diagnosing autism that is more accurate, has identified symptoms that may require treatment and assesses the level of severity.
ASD is an “umbrella diagnosis” that once separated the categories of autism being, Autistic Disorder, Asperger Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder. It is important to note, that ASD affects each person individually. Some may require extensive support to complete daily tasks, while others need less support and can live independently. Often autism is accompanied by co-occurring conditions such as sensory sensitivities and other medical conditions that affect one’s physical and mental health.
Now that you have been briefly introduced to what autism is, let’s further explore this condition by looking at prevalence rates, examine misconceptions and attempt to understand how autism directly impacts one’s ability to obtain meaningful and fulfilling employment.
When learning about ASD and celebrating World Autism Awareness Day, it's also important to understand the common misconceptions and myths surrounding this diagnosis. The word ‘diagnosis’ can create feelings of anxiety in those receiving the news due to their lack of knowledge on the condition. Often after receiving a diagnosis many tend to do research about their condition, which can lead to negative feelings and create mass panic. Below I will attempt to debunk some of the common misconceptions to provide a better understanding of ASD.
- “There is an autism epidemic”
According to the 2019 Canadian Health Survey on Children and Youth report, about 1 in 50 Canadian youth aged between 1 – 17 were being diagnosed with ASD. This is significantly higher than previous decades but is not due to ASD being an epidemic, rather the prevalence rate can be associated with the diagnostic criteria changes of the DSM-5. These changes have directed healthcare professionals to provide accurate diagnoses that examine the severity of each child diagnosed with autism and/or presenting symptoms of ASD. The 2019 CHSCY report also shares that children aged 5 – 11 (2.5%) were among the highest to be diagnosed with ASD. The lowest prevalence rate was found in children aged 1 – 4 (1.1%).
- “Only males have autism”
Findings of the 2019 CHSCY have found that males in fact were diagnosed with ASD more frequently than females, at a rate of 3.1% (1 in 32 males) compared to females at 0.8% (1 in 125). Proving that females most definitely can be diagnosed with ASD but as statistics show at a significantly lower rate. Research has shown that females do commonly tend to be underdiagnosed and present symptoms differently than males.
People with Autism in the Workplace
Within Canada, there is a large gap between persons with disabilities and employment. History has proven that people who identify with a disability are less likely to find employment than those without disabilities. For World Autism Awareness Day, we want to spotlight this disparity so that we can continue working to make a difference. CCRW is one of many organizations that are working tirelessly to bridge the gap and offer purposeful and fair employment opportunities of persons with disabilities.
How CCRW helps
At CCRW, our staff act as agents of change and lead their employment support services with a “yes” attitude and approach. As part of World Autism Awareness Day, we feel it's important to spotlight persons with Autism, but we also carry a life-long commitment to supporting those with Autism. As an organization we work towards the overarching goal of achieving employment equity for those who identify with a disability. We have connected with numerous individuals identifying with ASD who have accessed our services over the years and have observed their success first-hand. Persons with Autism can be ideal employees, when placed in an environment that allows them to thrive and when they are provided with opportunities that they are passionate about, enabling them to hyper-focus for extended periods of time. Persons with Autism are commonly known to highly value predictability and consistency, making incredibly reliable and punctual workers. Through CCRW Employment Services, people with Autism are able to receive the support needed to help them attain their employment goals, no matter how big or small! Our programing focuses on serving clients based on their individual needs, while helping them make connections to inclusive employers, which creates opportunities for personal and professional development. While society and employment may have its flaws, there is an exponential amount of space for persons with Autism to flourish in the workplace.
American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing Inc; 2013.
Autism People Can Thrive In Society. (September 12, 2022). Youtube Video, added by Kaelynn Partlow [Online]. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0sjdMDuABlc. Accessed: March 29, 2023.
Autism Speaks Canada. (2023). Autism Diagnosis Criteria: DSM-5. Retrieved March 16, 2023, from Autism Speaks Canada: https://www.autismspeaks.ca/diagnosis/
Autism SpeaksCanada. (2023). Autism In Girls and women. Retrieved March 17, 2023, from Autism Speaks Canada: https://www.autismspeaks.ca/women/#
Autism Speaks Canada. (2023). What is Autism? Retrieved March 16, 2023, from Autism Speaks Canada: https://www.autismspeaks.ca/what-is-autism/
Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work. (2021). Building Inclusion in Canada: Disability in Labour Market Trends. Toronto: CCRW. Retrieved March 17, 2023
Public Health Agency of Canada. (2023, January 25). Autism: About, causes and co-occurring conditions. Retrieved March 17, 2023, from Government of Canada: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/autism-spectrum-disorder-asd.html
Public Health Agency of Canada. (2022). Autism Spectrum Disorder: Highlights from the 2019 Canadian health survey on children and youth. Retrieved March 17, 2023, from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/autism-spectrum-disorder-canadian-health-survey-children-youth-2019.html#a2
Szatmari, P. (2015, November 2). Debunking myths about autism. Retrieved March 17, 2023, from Sick Kids: https://www.sickkids.ca/en/news/archive/2015/debunking-myths-about-autism-/
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