Finding Work For Autistic People: Self Employment Success - Autism Awareness

Finding Work For Autistic People: Self Employment Success

Many autistic adults have difficulty being accepted in, and carving a niche in the working world. While they may have troubles communicating verbally, they might still be able to, and want to contribute in a meaningful way through work. Most provinces in Canada have programs available to help autistic people find work, and there is a growing number of provincial databases, and companies who are open to the idea of hiring an autistic person. Some people find success breaking out on their own.

Self-employment can be a great way to provide meaningful work to an autistic person who has difficulty coping in a traditional work environment. Brad Fremmerlid, 33, is on the severe end of the spectrum. He can’t read or write, but he can put things together by looking at diagrams. With the help of his parents, Brad launched his own company Made by Brad. Located in Edmonton, Brad is available for hire to put together any project that has blueprints or diagrams.

Through supported self-employment, a business can be created that suits the aptitudes and interests of a person with ASD. A support team can handle the contracts and daily administrative duties, leaving the person with autism to pursue what they love.

Calgarian Kevin Vo is another perfect example of supported employment in action. He makes greeting cards and uses his money to enhance his enjoyment in life. He loves to go out for fries, travel to Disneyland, and uses his income to buy more supplies to make his cards, an activity he loves to do.

Below are three main points to help decide if self employment is the right path.

  1. Is There Something You Love To Do? Does your adult or youth have something that they love to do?  This should be something that they could spend days doing, and have no problems focusing on completing.
  2. Is There A Need For This Service/Product? Is this a hobby that can be used to make a product, or be a service that could be sold on its own? An autistic person might love putting groceries into bags for instance, but that would be a service better suited to employment, rather than self-employment.
  3. Is There A Support Network? Do they have the  support they would need to help with areas that might be challenging? In particular: executive functioning and social skills. As we all know, there is a broad spectrum of abilities out there, but in the example above even though Brad can’t read or write, he has the support he needs to round out his skill set and have a business.

If you are an autistic person, or are caring for one, and you can answer yes to those three questions then self employment might be a perfect fit. For an excellent article on how to start a business “aspie style” please click here.

You may also want to have a look at the following resources:

How to Find Work that Works for People with Asperger Syndrome

Developing Talents: Careers for Individuals with Autism


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  1. Lynn Kennedy says:

    My son with Asperger’s was able to access co-op placements during his last year of high school and did an extra semester to enable him to do another placement. He started small, at the local library in our town, then was able to do co-op at Walmart, The Salvation Army, and a local grocery store. After high school we worked with a local agency which was able to find a place for him at a Dollar Tree store. He gained a great deal of experience through these placements and FINALLY has a paying part-time job at The Score, a local store that supports the MS Society chapter of Leeds-Grenville, in Ontario. It’s never too early to start to scope out resources and employers because once kids are in high school the time goes quickly. We were very lucky to have an angel in his SERT teacher in his high school and the agency in town to pull for us.

    • This is fantastic and thank you for sharing your son’s story, Lynn. We have been doing similar things with both of my teens with autism – volunteering at a Farmer’s Market for the past 5 years, my son is at the local library and cafeteria in his high school; my daughter works at Petland 5 afternoons a week as part of her high school work experience. We have been volunteering since the kids were 11 and 13 and I hope it pays off for us like it has for your son. Well done and thank you for posting an inspirational story!

      Maureen Bennie, Director

  2. Our oldest son is only 11 but I have already been toying with the idea of employment considering it will be here before we know it . He has many special interests which may turn into a business & he loves facing shelves while I grocery shop so will see where all this will lead us. However I do really appreciate the resources included with this articl so we’ll have some to turn to when the time comes. I thank you for that.

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