Transitioning to Employment

A man sits a desk holding a clipboard across from another man and woman with a laptop
Sarah Southey, MSW, RSW

~ 3 minute read 

Updated from an article originally published in 2015

Honest, loyal, highly focused, creative, logical, and attentive to detail are some of the common traits associated with people with autism.

Would you want to hire someone with these traits?

How about someone who has better attendance and retention rate than their average colleague?

Your answer is probably yes to these questions; however, 86% of adults with autism are unemployed or under-employed in Ontario. The majority of adults (58%) rely on Ontario Disability Income Supports as their primary source of income.

Transition planning for those with autism needs to start sooner to help them move into adulthood!

Individuals with autism may need more help in the following areas related to employment:

  • Social interactions with colleagues, organizational skills and sensory challenges.
  • Making the work activities adequately challenging, rewarding and/or meaningful.
  • Understanding one’s own strengths and abilities.
  • Understanding different roles/careers – people with autism often struggle to take perspective and envision what someone else’s experiences would be like (This is called Theory of Mind).
  • Preparing for and attending an interview— difficulties managing anxiety, reading social cues, and/or communicating appropriate information is often challenging.
  • Self-advocating - sharing information about personal needs and accommodations.
  • Mental health - ensuring stability to be workplace ready.

Many people with autism also live with related mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression.

Ideas for schools

  • Enroll students in co-operative education (co-op) opportunities in the community to help them explore their interests.
  • Educate co-op supervisors on cultivating talents and preferences of those with autism. Ensure that there is a training plan in place that matches the individual’s learning style.
  • Support volunteer roles for people with autism by actively offering opportunities and helping to ensure the individual is prepared for this role.
  • Make career planning and regular transition meetings mandatory. Students with autism may require more time to contemplate and understand different career/education options. Additional meetings will help guide the individual to their career path.
  • Identify the individual’s strengths, skills, interests, talents and cognitive style through career assessment tools provided in schools across Ontario.
  • Connect with local community transition programs, colleges and employment services.
  • Ensure that the young adult contributes to their Individual Education Plan (IEP).

Ideas for the individual and family

  • Participate in chores and regularly structured responsibilities in the home. Allowance or other rewards given for task completion is likely to be motivating.
  • Volunteer in the community, and seek out summer employment to get experience in a variety of settings.
  • Enroll in programs that focus on employment, life skills, and social skills to prepare for adult independence.
  • Connect the individual living with autism to family and friends he or she can interview to gather information about specific jobs or careers.
  • Engage the person in job-shadowing opportunities.
  • Develop strong self-advocacy skills so that personal strengths and needs can be communicated to the employer in an effective manner.
  • Identify the person’s strengths, skills, interests, talents and cognitive style.
  • Make use of psycho-vocational testing and assessments.
  • When self-employment is viable, evaluate the individual’s talents, whether he or she has a product or service that has the potential to be sold, strengthen the individual’s entrepreneurial skills, and look for small business training and mentoring.
  • Create the opportunity for ongoing counselling to ensure mental health support (especially during times of transition).


Accardi, C. & Duhaime, S. (2013) Finding and Keeping Employment. Autism Ontario Knowledge-Base: www.

Baron-Cohen, S., Leslie, A.M. & Frith, U. (1985). Does the Autistic Child have a “Theory of Mind”? Cognition. 21(1): 37-46.

Stoddart, K.P., Burke, L., Muskat, B., Manett, J., Duhaime, S., Accardi, C., Burnham Riosa, P. and Bradley, E. (2013) Diversity in Ontario’s Youth and Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Complex Needs in an Unprepared System. Toronto,ON:TheRedpathCentre


Sarah Southey

About Sarah Southey

Sarah is a Social Worker (M.S.W.), and is an affiliate of The Redpath Centre. She see’s clients in Mississauga, Toronto and virtually. She has over 12 years experience working with adolescents and adults with autism, ADHD, learning disabilities and mental health issues. Sarah focuses her counselling and research on helping people with autism find and keep meaningful employment. Sarah uses solution-focused and cognitive behavioural therapy techniques in her sessions.




DISCLAIMER: This document reflects the views of the author. It is Autism Ontario’s intent to inform and educate. Every situation is unique and while we hope this information is useful, it should be used in the context of broader considerations for each person. Please contact Autism Ontario at or 416-246-9592 for permission to reproduce this material for any purpose other than personal use. © 2021 Autism Ontario 416-246-9592