Unconscious Biases

Work assignments for people on the autism spectrum

Most people on the spectrum who manage to find a job – which is a challenge in itself – are typically underemployed. This is due to the unconscious biases that exist regarding the capabilities of an autistic person. The most common being that everything must be documented, that tasks should be rote and repetitive and not involve any critical thinking or decision-making, and that hiring an autistic individual would place a burden on other team members and management.


Now let’s look at the facts about Autism Spectrum Disorder. It is called a spectrum for good reason, because it affects people differently and to different degrees. The following outlines the capabilities, support required, and work assignments suitable for each level on the autism spectrum:


Level 1

  • This person has high cognitive functioning, significant technical abilities, and is almost always underemployed.
  • They can handle variation in the job, complex IT technical roles, and analytical assignments that require research, collaboration, and decision-making.
  • They require some support regarding social behaviors and communications.


Level 2

  • This individual is cognitively able and possibly underemployed in a rote, repetitive job.
  • They can handle work that has some variation, such as stocking shelves, computer hardware assembly/disassembly, maybe even troubleshooting and straightforward data validation.
  • They require support regarding social behaviors and communications.


Level 3

  • This person may be cognitively challenged but not necessarily.
  • They are best suited to a rote, repetitive job such as photocopying, scanning documents, and data entry. Such a job can be “carved out” of existing roles, freeing up other employees to do more complex tasks. For those who are not cognitively challenged, then a job that is more demanding may be suitable.
  • They require significant support.


People at all levels of the spectrum possess skills that can improve an organization’s productivity.


As employers, you may also be interested to know that “being as productive as possible” is a powerful motivator for people on the spectrum in their job. Their diligence, perseverance, and work pace can be inspiring, and while it may be hard to keep up with such over-achievers at times, what ultimately gets accomplished during their employment will astound you.


To give you an example: A manager at a large financial institution added 3 individuals on the autism spectrum to his team, thinking this would be enough resources to complete the mission-critical deliverables over the project lifespan. The new hires were so productive, it wasn’t long before he was able to free up half his original team to work on other assignments in that same project. All he could do was shake his head and say: “These guys really get into the zone.”


As neurodiversification becomes more recognized and accepted, employers need to remember that autism is a spectrum. It is essential to factor in the level of support each individual requires as well as their cognitive abilities, strengths, interests and skills in order to match them with the most appropriate roles.


As with any employee, you want to get the best of what your employees on the spectrum have to offer. Under-employ a person on the autism spectrum and you will miss out on the unique benefits they could bring to the table. Set them up for success, in a job role that suits their skill set and support needs, and you’ll discover their best can be amazing.


For more information on how to successfully integrate people with autism into your organization, contact Carol Simpson at carol@focusps.ca.