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Unemployable




We all need money to live - a fact of our society for which I have an unending amount of disdain. We are told we have ‘freedom’ with the underlying message of “work or die.” Finding a job that pays a living wage is difficult already, but for autistic individuals it is a waking nightmare. “Autism unemployment was approximately 85% in 2021, and research shows Autistic individuals face higher unemployment rates and social isolation than other disabilities.”1 85% of all diagnosed autistic individuals are either unemployed or underemployed, meaning they don’t make enough money to live independently. But why are so many autistic adults considered ‘unemployable’? And what does that really mean?


Let's start by breaking down what an average job looks like. In today’s world, with prices continually rising and wages remaining stagnant, many people are having to work more hours and/or more than one job. According to a 2019 Gallup Poll, 52% percent of full-time workers report working more than 40 hours a week, and 18% work at least 60 hours.2 We rent ourselves out, spend more hours than anything else in our lives toiling away making a profit that will we never see; we are then given a pitiful amount of that pie called a wage, and then expected to buy the goods we need to survive, the goods we as the working class made with our own labor. “Our lives disappear, spent like the money for which we trade them.”3 We comply with this insane cycle that can only be kept up by a staggering amount of cognitive dissonance over and over again, looking forward to when we can retire (maybe) and actually get to enjoy our lives.


Now imagine an autistic individual who has been uncomfortable and often confused in this society since day one. Everything is too bright, too noisy, too much all the time. Our nervous systems are almost always on edge. We experience frequent shutdowns/meltdowns when our nervous system is overwhelmed. We mask to try and seem ‘normal’ and this takes so much energy out of us that we fall into long burnout periods where we barely have the energy to be alive and often can’t even take care of ourselves properly.


The neurodivergent mind does not conform to the compliance model of our society. I am autistic and ADHD, myself. As a kid in school I never had any problem calling out and questioning authority figures. I questioned all of the arbitrary rules at school and refused to follow them if no one offered a good explanation as to why the rule was necessary. This meant I spent a lot of time in the principal’s office and detention. As an adult, these same traits have played out. I have had a lot of jobs for a 25-year-old, none of which I have stayed at for more than a year either because the environment was so unbearable for me that I quit or was fired.


I often hit burnout; I’ve been in a phase of autistic burnout for close to a year now. This is because I have had to muster up energy that I don’t have, put on a fake smile, act like someone other than myself, ignore all of the stimuli that makes me uncomfortable, and try to decode all of this nonsense just to be told I’m difficult, lazy, and that something is wrong with me and I need to be fixed. In our society, it’s acceptable for someone to not be doing well for a little while, but not for years on end lest you become a burden. The result of having an ‘invisible disability’ is

that even people who know what is going on don’t fully understand how much we struggle, even when I explain it over and over again. It is utterly exhausting.


Many autistic individuals are discriminated against because the way we work is different than the ‘neurotypical’ expectation: we have shutdowns/meltdowns that others refuse to try and understand, we question things that merit questioning, and oftentimes we don’t even get offered the job in the first place because many of the factors used to evaluate job candidates have more to do with adherence to ‘social norms’ than what the job actually entails. We live in an ableist society that doesn’t want to accommodate individuals with different needs. The government makes qualifying for disability benefits extremely difficult, more so if you are high-masking like me (and especially if you are also female).


I encourage you to look into the social model of disability. I also encourage you to learn more about autism and to ask yourself, how can we make life more accessible for everyone? The status quo of trying to force everyone into one way of living and working and then pathologizing them if they can’t fit into that box has to die. I have hope that we will establish new ways of living with a foundation of taking care of each other rather than seeing each other as competition. No one should have to prove their worth. You are worthy. You don’t need a ‘good’ job or a certain amount of money, or a house or anything to prove yourself - you are worthy just for being you. The more we recognize that, the more we can extend that same kindness to others. A better way of life is not only possible but necessary. We will get there.


Love is the Revolution.


Sincerely,

Your friendly but fed up AuDHD neighbor



Works Cited

ng-companies-to-hire-those-on-the-autistic-spectrum/?sh=7701915e52a2 Jennifer Palumbo,

2021

Gallup, 2019

3. Crimethinc. Workers’ Collective, Work: Capitalism, Economics, Resistance (CrimethInc.

Ex-workers’ Collective; 2019).


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