Relationship Between Autism in the Workplace and Age of Diagnosis

Summary of a recent Study

Developmental disabilities have garnered little attention in research that focuses on workplace stigma and identity management. But this study shows that the Autism Spectrum Condition makes navigating the workplace complex. The severity and type of Autism often determine how difficult work challenges can be for a person with autism, along with other aspects regarding undisclosed work experience and age of diagnosis.

The Study Outcomes

The chances of being diagnosed with autism today are higher due to better detection rates. A new paper on Working while affected with ASD (to be found in the Journal of Applied Psychology) states that age is a vital factor as well as the age of diagnosis. A late diagnosis does not fully identify with autism, for workplace treatment has already shaped the person’s attitudes, feelings, and almost everything about his/her general life.

Approach taken by the Study

Pennsylvania State University researchers Tiffany Johnson and Aparna Joshi interviewed 30 such individuals to start with, and a much larger group (210) after they learned more about the issues of the initial group. The later group were mostly twenty- and thirty-something in age range and 66% male, coming from varied backgrounds like education, finance, and services. They were sourced through an autism community network. Their current age, gender, and severity of diagnosis were matched, which showed that age, when diagnosed, is a crucial factor—the earlier the diagnosis, the more comfortable the subject was in his/her workplace setting.

Details of the outcome:

The social interaction survey data involved participants with jobs demanding higher social interactivity. The age at the time of diagnosis determined whether the subject felt more discriminated (read workplace discrimination with Autism) against and less capable than those diagnosed later in life. This group received more comfort in work resembling their neurotypical peers or role models.

Considering themselves a member of the population they worked with – short or long term, even with social interaction issues – everything boiled down to the details of the work. An early diagnosis, on the other hand, guides a person to enter the workplace with a prefixed mindset with ASD, believing in their suitability for certain activities.

But the survey also shows that an early-diagnosed participant feels more comfortable in jobs where organisational support for Autism is duly provided. The late-diagnosed group prefer less support; the attention and differentiation simply felt unattractive.

Age influences the disclosing of experiences of a diagnosis. The early-diagnosed showed signs of stress and anxiety (read managing stress with Autism) after revealing their condition but also felt less discriminated against. Self-esteem was also higher, whereas the late-diagnosed felt more discriminated against and generally had lower self-esteem.

To Conclude:

The above, however, reflects the darker side of ASD identification for the late-diagnosed. One interviewee spoke about his loathing for disclosure and preferred to wear an introvert’s label rather than someone who is undergoing some developmental diagnosis.

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