“Can a person with ASD work”? 

Work is an option for people with ASD depending on the skill set, interests, work ethic and needs of the person.

There are three types of paid employment:

  1. Open employment
    • Employment in the mainstream market, earning a regular wage without assistance.
    • This type of employment can be successful for people with ASD on the higher functioning end of the spectrum who may be able to get along with others and can hide their social and communication deficits.
    • People in this type of employment tend to have specific skills and expertise and can focus on one area of work, often without having to interact with others- i.e. computer programming, research or other specific work.
    • Women with high functioning autism may blend into mainstream work better than men, often going into specific areas such as psychology, teaching or other intellectually skilled professions after completing further study.
  2. Supported wage mainstream
    • A person with ASD may find employment with a mainstream provider- such as a supermarket -and be paid a supported wage
    • A supported wage is when the person is paid at level that is representative of the work they are completing.
    • The person may also receive support through a job agency to help find them the job, prepare for work- i.e. training with conduct, grooming, and travel and help them to retain their job.
    • The employer may get a government payment as an incentive for employing the person with ASD.
  3. Disability Supported Employment
    • People with ASD who are able to work but require support can engage in what is known as Supported Employment if they are in receipt of a Disability Support Pension and a place at a business which provides supported employment is available. This would need to be part of the individuals NDIS plan, or other localised arrangements depending on the NDIS roll out Australia wide.
    • Supported Employment is provided by disability support agencies that run a business where employees have a disability and earn a small wage that is offset by the Disability Support Pension.
    • Employees work under supervised conditions and training is provided.
    • Supported employment is a fantastic opportunity for people with ASD or other disabilities to complete valued work and gain skills in a supervised environment.
    • For more information about supported employment contact NDIS, your local adult disability support service, disability employment agency, Centrelink or state government department.

Voluntary Work

  • For people with ASD that may not yet be able to find paid work and want to contribute to the community, voluntary work is an option.
  • Voluntary work helps the person with ASD build their independence, work and social skills and participate in the community.
  • Voluntary wok is available through many community organisations and a range of roles may be suitable for a person with ASD depending on their skills, abilities and interests.
  • There are many volunteering organisations across Australia that can support people who wish to volunteer.
  • For more information on volunteering in the Barwon region contact Volunteering Geelong 

Ups and downs of work

Often people with ASD are great employees – they are punctual, rarely take sick days, have a great eye for detail and can complete repetitive tasks very well.
The other areas of work life are more difficult for a person with ASD include:

  • talking to or getting along with workmates, customers or clients,
  • dressing appropriately
  • knowing how to deal with unexpected situations
  • avoiding work place bullies
  • knowing how to talk to their boss
  • knowing how to ask for help , and who to ask or feeling too embarrassed to ask for help if trying to hide difficulties.
  • being organised, negotiating public transport and other day to day hassles of getting to and from work.
  • dealing with situations which may cause anger, aggression or give rise to meltdowns.

Do I disclose that I have ASD?

A person with ASD is under no obligation to disclose that they have ASD to their employer if in the mainstream work force and do not wish to. Disclosing ASD may bring more confusion than understanding as many people are not familiar with autism and how it affects people in the workplace.
Sometimes it may be necessary to disclose to be able to get the supports needed to work effectively, or to negotiate any issues. Some statements to use which can help get needs met without disclosure include:

  • “I work best in a quiet space”
  • “I am best at task that involve”…
  • “I am more comfortable doing”…
  • “I find it difficult when…”

If company has an employee assistance program which provides counselling and or support it is useful to access it if needed to discuss any issues in the workplace. This is particularly important to help avoid meltdowns and diffuse stress.

Discrimination, bullying and harassment
If the person with ASD feels they are being bullied, discriminated against or harassed there are a number steps to take to redress it:

  1. Deal directly with the person and tell them to stop
  2. Report the issue to the line manager or Human Resources manager
  3. If the matter has not been resolved report it to:
    Bullying or harassment to Work Safe Victoria on 1800 136 089
    Discrimination to The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission on 1300 891 848

When making a complaint to anyone regarding bullying, harassment or discrimination it is good to document any issues such as:

  • Name, dates, times
  • What happened?
  • Who it was reported it to?
  • What was the outcome?

It is important to use an advocate for support if needed when making a complaint regarding bullying, harassment or discrimination. For further information on advocacy see “Advocacy” Section of this website.


  • Coming out Asperger, Diagnosis, Disclosure and Self Confidence by Dinah Murray
  • Asperger Syndrome Employment Workbook by Roger N. Meyer