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The Rewards of Working With Autistic Adults

Two adults talking and text that reads “the rewards of working with autistic adults”It probably comes as no surprise that working with people who have special needs presents a diverse set of challenges. After all, anytime someone's gifts and trials are unique from those commonly found within the broader culture there's bound to be the occasional — or frequent — travail.

However, working with a population whose needs are extraordinary also includes some remarkable benefits. Whether you currently work with adults who are on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), or you are just now considering what it would mean to embark on such a career path, here is a closer look at five rewards commonly experienced by anyone working with adults with ASD.

1. Growing Need and Career Opportunities

While no one is entirely sure how many people in the United States and around the world have ASD, according to the CDC's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (ADDM), the number of current diagnoses in the U.S. suggests a rate of roughly one in 68 children. In a country of 350 million, then, there are anywhere between 4 and 6 million people with ASD, and many adults with the disorder are just now beginning to receive treatment.

Because of its high prevalence — and the fact that its prevalence seems to still be on the rise due to diagnostic changes — there is an increasing need for people with the right skills and education to properly serve this unique population. Whether you need to finish your degree with a BS PLS, bachelor of liberal studies or you're considering a master's degree, here are a handful of the jobs available to people hoping to work with adults with ASD:

  • Applied Behavior Analyst
  • Adult Services Specialist
  • Researcher
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Social Worker

2. A Grand Sense of Accomplishment

It's true that working with autistic adults can be trying at times, but when progress is made, the sense of accomplishment it affords is monumental. Because progress happens at such a basic human level, when an adult with ASD holds eye contact, smiles, gets a joke, or secures a job for the first time, it's an opportunity for the people working with him or her to literally see and experience the difference they're making.

That difference is not just in his or her life, but in the lives of family members, friends, and even other support staff. Especially as meaningful work continues to be highly sought after by almost everyone in the 21st century workforce, few career paths can rival the sense of success available to those working with adults on the spectrum.

3. Good Compensation

While it would be nice if all anyone needed out of a career was work that provided a meaningful way to feel like you were achieving something important, the reality for most people is that it's also essential to make money. Depending on the specifics of the job you get, the industry in which you're employed, and the amount of education you have, working with adults on the spectrum can be refreshingly well-compensated.

While the career options won't pull in paychecks on par with someone working for a hedge fund, the salaries and benefits common to this line of work are still quite favorable. From the Social Worker making upwards of $44,000 to the Occupational Therapist making $75,000, compensation when working with adults with ASD tends to range from good to great.

The Rewards of Working With Autistic Adults4. Greater Empathy

One of the many rewards that can be gleaned from working with adults on the spectrum is an increase in empathy on the part of those encouraging and guiding the adult to practice it.

Empathy is a skill that can be learned by almost anyone, including adults with ASD, and the more one practices being empathetic — even if that practice is with and on behalf of someone else — the greater the gains for everyone involved.

5. Improved Patience

Oftentimes, adults and children with ASD have a delay in processing, which means the person or people interacting with them must exercise patience by learning to wait this processing delay out. In addition, it can take adults with ASD a longer time to master what some would consider "simple" skills than it does for much of the population to do so. Because of these realities, when patience isn't exercised or learned on the part of the person interacting with the adult on the spectrum, frustration will almost certainly ensue on both sides.

Appropriate expectations must be set and patience emphasized, or progress will suffer. This necessity yields an ability among those working with adults on the spectrum to abandon measurement that only recognizes time as its standard. Improved patience, then, becomes a commonplace trait.

Working with people with ASD isn't for everyone. The lack of a cure and the need to measure success on a smaller scale can be discouraging. However, if you're willing to take on the challenges, the rewards can be significant. Find out more about how to finish your degree here.