As people with autism age out of school, the question about employment often arises. Adults on the spectrum can face social challenges, uncomfortable situations that can trigger stimming, or situations where they’re unable to communicate effectively. However, on the flip side, ASD adults have unique traits that could make them exceptional employees, whether it’s their intense focus or attention to detail. The challenges that people on the spectrum face don’t necessarily bar them from a life of employment. The key is finding your niche, and finding (or founding!) a company that understands and accommodates autistic needs. The following is a list of adults on the spectrum who took their careers into their own hands, often with the help of family or friends. Take a look!
Eileen is the founder of of Cozy Calm, an online company that makes weighted sensory blankets. Nonverbal until she was five, Eileen grew up not knowing she had autism. It wasn’t until she was about 40 that she was diagnosed.
A couple years later, her occupational therapist covered her with a weighted blanket, and within mere moments Eileen felt calm. Enamored with the blanket, Eileen tried to find a place that sold them and realized that most were homemade. Then, an idea was born — she was going to create her own commercial medical blanket company!
Eileen’s company has been a huge success.
After watching a culinary demonstration when he was in high school, Matt knew what he wanted to do for a career. However, he didn’t quite know where to begin. Traditional classrooms weren’t ideal for Matt, as they didn’t suit his learning style. So for three years, Matt attended the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC) Vocational and Life Skills Academy CulinaryWorks® program. He spent the next three years after that taking personal, one-on-one baking lessons Heather Netzloff, a pastry chef and founder of Rumpelstiltskin Granola.
Finally, in 2012, he and his mother founded Stuttering King Bakery, named after King George VI. Located in Phoenix, Arizona, the mouthwatering menu includes traditional-with-a-twist items like muffins, whoopie pies, blondies, brownies, and even gluten-free options. Each item is handcrafted with a focus on high quality, natural, and locally-sourced ingredients.
Matthew Cottle / Via Facebook
Matthew Morreale is in his mid-twenties, is on the autism spectrum, and runs his own niche business in the Orange County area: It requires minimal funding and yet makes a steady profit — something that’s perfect for Matthew.
Diagnosed at 5, Matthew threw tantrums so often that his mother didn’t want to take him out in public. Showering alone wasn’t manageable until his teen years, and his mother went down a “dark road” where she was unsure about what his future would look like.
Things changed during his teenage years though, with the help of school aids. After high school, Matthew’s life coach helped him find a job in retail, which he enjoyed — but they didn’t give him many hours. So his life coach suggested he start his own business. That’s when Matthew founded Matthew James Co., a paper-shredding business. His mom drives him to his appointments, but she isn’t allowed inside his workplace, which his mom attributes to his fierce independence.
Matthew visits Disney Land on his days off, and hopes to one day be able to visit all the Disney theme parks around the world.
Matthew Morreale (left), with his mother and brother Joseph / Courtesy of the Morreale FamilyWhizzco