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How does a young adult with autism find work?


Young adults with autism and other intellectual and developmental differences CAN find work and work to the top of their capabilities! More and more businesses today are invested in the employment and growth of individuals with unique strengths and abilities. Purposeful work can reduce anxiety and hopelessness and increase daily living skills. So important! Unfortunately, less than half of autistic adults are employed.

Whether you are a young adult with autism looking for work to fill your days with purpose and community or you are a parent, grandparent, friend or caregiver, this page will answer your questions. As a successful non-profit teahouse that has employed individuals with unique abilities since 2016, we’re uniquely suited to answer questions about individuals with autism and employment. Read on!

Does autism stop you from working? 

Autism doesn’t need to stop you or someone you know and love from working! Each person with autism has a different set of abilities and challenges, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t meaningful work to be found. More and more employers are more aware and supportive of the unique strengths and abilities of individuals with autism. Watch this short Autism Speaks video about the importance of workplace inclusion.


What  jobs can an autistic person do? Well, it depends on the individual with autism. Autism and many other special needs are on a spectrum. As with any individual, different people are better suited for different jobs. For example, some adults with autism are able to graduate from college and launch careers in accounting, book keeping, technology, engineering, and more. Here are seven tech companies that hire autistic adults.

Other young adults may be able to grow into skills and abilities, like bagging groceries, taking orders, serving food and beverages, and working behind the scenes in a retail environment.

And yet other individuals on the spectrum may be non-verbal and/or have limited mobility. These adults may be better suited to part- or full-time employment with training and significant supports, like ExtraSpecialTeas in Great Barrington, MA (with two locations) and Bitty and Beau’s Coffee with franchises in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Maryland, and Boston.

At ExtraSpecialTeas we recognize that each person has a set of skills. It is our job to help that person apply those skills to create meaningful employment. In our small teahouse, each ExtraSpecial Server is taught to use their particular gifts so that they can be gainfully employed, which gives them the opportunity to find purpose and connect with others.  

How can an autistic person get a job?

While almost half of individuals with autism are unemployed and underemployed, there is hope for the future. With the right support, people with autism can get a job. Each State has different rules and regulations associated with programs to support individuals accessing vocational training and jobs. We encourage you to contact the Departments of Developmental Services in your state to obtain referrals and recommendations for workplaces that prioritize employees' particular skill sets and provide an inclusive atmosphere.

Exactly how can a young adult with autism find a job? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Autism Speaks offers are great employment tool kit. They also recommend registering with – a free website designed by and for job seekers with autism.
  1. Know your strengths and limitations – know what you enjoy and what you feel you are good at. Write it down and keep revisiting that list.
  1. Consider workforce training and vocational programs through your state,  non-profit organizations and companies committed to hiring individuals with intellectual and developmental issues, such as Walgreens.
  1. Practice communication skills, including speaking and listening.

Here at ExtraSpecialTeas, we offer vocational training and employment to participants with a range of abilities and challenges. It is always our goal to be inclusive and find the particular skill that each adult can offer that can translate into meaningful employment. We employ adults with Autism, Down Syndrome, Intellectual Disabilities, Sight Impairment or Developmental Disabilities.

What is a good job for someone with autism?

A good job for someone with autism will use their skills and abilities. This also applies to someone with Down syndrome, intellectual disabilities, sight impairment or developmental disabilities. Each person has a set of amazing abilities they can use to contribute as an employee. What jobs can an autistic person do? Read on!

Many individuals with autism have one (or some or all!) of these abilities:

  • Strong visual orientation
  • Interest in animals and other specific subjects
  • Great memory for facts
  • Technical ability

Adults who are strong in these skill sets can have amazing careers in fields such as

  • Accounting
  • Animal science
  • Research
  • Shipping and logistics
  • Information technology
  • Engineering

Pop over to this blog post by Autism Parenting Magazine for more job ideas.

Non-verbal adults and those with more limited ability to interact in a workplace can still access careers. Consider:

  • Packing and shipping
  • Factory assembly work
  • Lawn and garden work
  • Work in a restaurant: wash dishes, serve beverages, frost cupcakes, clean and bus tables
  • Work in a grocery store: retrieve carts and bag groceries
  • Office work: make copies, water plants, fold and stuff flyers

These jobs may need constant support and reinforcement of skills or not, depending on the individual.

Here at ExtraSpecialTeas, jobs include sales, packaging, shipping, brewing tea, serving to the community, baking gluten-free baked goods for humans and Tea Bones pet treats; and crafting Tea Lites, Bath Brews and cards, and connecting with the community as spokespeople (one of our ExtraSpecial Servers, Patrick, has been on a local radio station talking about our teahouse several times. All these jobs, and more, can help our participants find purposeful employment.

How can I help my child with special needs get a job?

If you are a parent or other support person asking, “How can I help my child with special needs get a job?” It’s a big question. Here’s what we suggest:

  1. Ask them: What do you want to do? What are you excited about? How do you like to help? You, no doubt, already know what motivates and stimulates your young adult but it’s important to hear it from them. Repeated conversation about this will lead to more information.
  2. Look for supportive vocational training for adults with autism and other special needs.
  3. Work with your school system if your adult is still participating in school.
  4. Connect with your state’s Department of Developmental Services and get recommendations and referrals.
  5. Here in Massachusetts, like in many states, there are companies that work with autism service providers to train young adults with autism. The most effective on-job learning combines training and simulation (Lattimore, Parsons, Reid, 2006). 
  6. Connect with employers you’ve identified as compatible with your adult.

Here at ExtraSpecialTeas, we use our day program, coupled with vocational training, to find the particular skills that each participant offers that can translate into meaningful work. At ExtraSpecialTeas, these jobs include sales, packaging, shipping, brewing tea, serving to the community and baking delicious gluten-free treats. We pride ourselves in opening up purpose and possibility to the lives of special needs participants so that they can get these jobs, and more, here and eventually, for some, in the community at large.

If you live outside the area ExtraSpecialTeas serves, within 20 miles of Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and you’re looking for more job opportunities for your child, Autism Speaks provides 12 steps to help adults with autism find the right job, which is adapted from their Autism Speaks Employment Tool Kit.

We hope you found this information about how to help your young adult with autism find a job! Learn more about ExtraSpecialTeas and about job opportunities at our teahouse here. Also, follow us on Instagram and Facebook to help us brew belonging with purpose, possibility, gratitude and tea.