Personal story about adults with Asperger's syndrome and employment


By Mr Coffee


Some consider Asperger's Syndrome to be a positive trait that will grant a person riches and wealth. The question is: how can a person be granted riches and wealth if they are not able to function very well on an interpersonal level and work as a part of a team? If you have a diagnosis, chances are you got it because of a need for housing, medical, and financial benefits in addition to a lack of ability to maintain any gainful employment. I can only speak of my own experience in this area, as I am not familiar with what others with the diagnosis experience.


As far as jobs, I have had many. I worked as a janitor, baker at a donut shop, general clerk, pizza delivery driver, painter, grounds keeper, bus driver, and as a courier. Each of these positions had a common issue in regards to my ability to maintain each job: interpersonal issues with co-workers and a company's clients. I think a good idea would be to describe the type of job that is supposed to have the least amount of human contact so that I can hopefully describe Asperger's more graphicly: that of a janitor or custodian.



Little may people think, but working in the building maintenance field does indeed require maintaining a trust between the building's owners, the company, and other custodial staff. If a client does not trust a worker, then they will find some other contractor to do the work for them. The same goes for an individual who the co-workers do not like. Any sense of suspicion by a client could get an employee either transferred to a different job site, or terminated all together by a company. This is especially true in a post 9-11 era. In my case, the work place troubles started before then.


unable to fit in

Employers want someone who can do the job with little time spent on coaching and training. They want someone who gets along with the team, and works well with them while cooperating with supervisors. There is a social element attached to all of this, and workers tend to form a common bond among themselves. An exception would be somebody who appears different in their ways of thinking and acting. Enter the employee with a neurological disorder, the person who has Asperger's Syndrome. That co-worker truly wants to fit in with the group, but is unable to due to traits in his or her condition. Those traits would include the lack of ability to interpret body language, sensory issues, motor habits, eye contact, and other details too numerous to mention.


Problems emerge over time

The interview can often go well, without any problem. If the prospect is young enough, chances are they don't have enough of a work history that would likely get them turned down for employment. In my early 20s I worked as a janitor, long before companies actually considered security issues important in hiring. Problems did not appear to begin until at least two weeks into my employment. At this stage, people discover differences in a person with Asperger's, traits that the workers are not likely to have. Eye contact gets to be an issue, and some may notice that the worker doesn't have a steady relationship or girl friend/boy friend, and is not able to relate to others in that area. The new worker may not totally agree with the culture shared by the group, or even the type of music they listen to. Noise and the environment may disrupt the concentration that the worker needs to do the job. All of this happened in my case.


co-workers feel uncomfortable

As time goes by, the employee is often transferred to other locations, because the last set of co-workers complained extensively about the worker's habits or the their lack of ability to perform on the job. Other co-workers may complain of "feeling uncomfortable" with an individual shortly before they are either transferred or fired. Much of this is due to the environment and lack of empathy from other employees, but to the employer it makes no difference. The cycle starts over with the new set of co-workers the employee is involved with. Eventually, a building manager may take notice and decide they do not like the worker being in their building, or involved with the staff, and the company ends up letting the worker go due to performance issues.


Much of the time, the trouble lies with the ability to work on a team. The intelligence is there, yet there are no interpersonal skills and sensory issues keep the person from being able to perform their duties. By the time this happens, the employee has built up a negative work history that will affect his or her other employment prospects. It did in my case, and I am now on social security.


A recent research article on employment

There are some references in regards to employment, but it is often hard to dig up. A person on the chat room directed me to an article at this location:


The author of the article is Eve Muller. It begins with an abstract describing the purpose of the study. Data was gathered from interviews with 18 individuals who have the diagnosis, where at least 18 years of age, and had described themselves as having difficulties with social interaction. The majority of the participants of this study had negative experiences with employment. Most of the major problems related to difficulties with supervisors and co-workers. Those whom were younger then 30 experienced fewer problems then those over 30. Almost all of the participants experienced long periods of unemployment, as well as lack of opportunities for career advancement.


Being fired repeatedly from jobs is common with Autism Spectrum Disorders, and opportunities to find other work tends to erode as more job terminations appear on a person's record. A lack of vocational success is usually attributed to not being able to hold down a job long enough to accumulated enough experience to be considered for advancement. Some end up completely losing any opportunities for employment in the future due to severely damaged employment histories.


In the end, the article states recommendations for vocational supports for those who have Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Among them are job matching, individualized ASD-specific job supports, communication supports, and Autism awareness training for the employers. The importance of Autism awareness cannot be emphasized enough.


early intervention

I will state very clearly, that early intervention is the key towards success in the work place. The person affected must not be in a situation where they accumulate a negative prior employment history. A negative employment history will make job placement extremely difficult, if not impossible in some circumstances. The way to maintain a decent employment history starts before high school, or even grade school, where a diagnosis during early childhood can be made. The earlier a person can learn to function and cope in a social situation, the more likely they will experience a successful career in the future.


Click here to read Temple Grandin's tips on moving from school to employment.

Click here to read a fact sheet on finding the right job when on the autism spectrum.


Close this personal story on Asperger's syndrome and employment

Click here for the full range of Asperger's and autism fact sheets and personal stories at
Click here to read more personal stories from parents of children on the autism spectrum, and from adults living with Autism, Asperger's syndrome and other Autism Spectrum Disorders

This story is reprinted with the permission of Mr Coffee who organizes an Asperger's syndrome forum at

The diverse effects of Aspergers syndrome creates many issues for the adult seeking employment. This is a personal story of one man's struggles and views on work and the autism spectrum.