Help wanted: More employers hiring adults with autism

Special Reports

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) – More than half a million teens and young adults with autism will enter adulthood in the next decade according to the Department of Health and Human Services. But, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that only about 20 percent of people with disabilities are employed or seeking employment.

The Autism Project of RI says it’s noticed a trend toward hiring more adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and they’ve been asked to provide more training and support for local employers who want to hire adults with disabilities.  

Life Wear Technologies of North Kingstown recently hired 22-year-old Patrick Quinn, who has ASD.  Quinn works as a fulfillment assistant on the factory floor and while his shift is shorter than most other employees, his daily workplace expectations are exactly the same.  

“I label and stamp boxes,” said Quinn. “I put things into boxes and I work with some good people here,” Quinn said, adding that he enjoys the work he does and the people with who he works. 
Al Greer, the president of Life Wear Technologies, has known Quinn and his family since Quinn was a child. Greer said he was hopeful that Quinn would be a good fit for the company when he approached him about a job. 

“My biggest reservation was I wasn’t sure if the environment would be ok for him,” said Greer. “How would it impact him? Was he going to be ok? Were the machines going to be too noisy and would he be uncomfortable here?”

After Quinn’s initial training, and a few months into his employment it became clear to Greer that Patrick fit in and that he could do the job well.  

“One of Patrick’s strengths is his focus and attention and once he gets in that zone he performs as well as anyone else out there,” Greer said.

Resources to prepare and place adults with autism in the workforce:

An increasing number of companies across the country like Microsoft, Freddie Mac, and Walgreens are establishing hiring and recruiting campaigns and developing new hiring methods with this large population of workers in mind.  

Al Greer says personally and professionally this is a trend in the right direction. 

“Patrick is just so sincere and he’s such a nice kid. This is such a huge market for large companies – someone classified with a disability can easily perform and do a job well. It’s a win-win,” Greer said.

There are a number of agencies and state programs in Rhode Island that help adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder prepare to find and maintain employment.  

The Autism Project of RI is one of those organizations and on Sunday they will hold their 16th Annual Imagine Walk for Autism at Goddard Park in Warwick beginning at 9 a.m. WPRI 12, FOX Providence, myRITV and the CW Providence are proud sponsors of the event. 

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