Entrepreneur Haydn Payne understands that if he does not start his own business, he could be on welfare for the rest of his life. That may not be so remarkable if it weren’t for the fact that the thing preventing Payne from advancing in the workplace is his condition: autism.
Extreme sensitivity to sound and light make it impossible for him to be in a supermarket, let alone hold down a regular 9-5pm job, without experiencing extreme distress.
So how does Haydn, and the anticipated 353,880 Australians on the autism spectrum survive? Of those 1 in 70 Australians diagnosed with Autism, 4 out of 5 are likely to be men and boys. The male-female incidence ratios increases to 10:1 for "high functioning" autism and asperger syndrome and have been reported to be as high as 15:1 and 16:1 in certain populations.
A new community organization, Settlement Services International (SSI), is helping people with a disability get a foothold by funding start-ups under the IgniteAbility Small Business Start-ups program.
But on World Autism Awareness Day today, 2 April, a spotlight has been cast over the poor employment prospects for people with autism, following a study commissioned by autism body AMAZE which found that half of Australians diagnosed with autism have ever held paid work despite being qualified.
And those who did get a job, had a 20 per cent chance of losing it because of their symptoms.
"There is gross underemployment for autistic Australians, and their abilities are underestimated and under-utilised in the workplace,” AMAZE CEO Fiona Sharkie said.
Autism Awareness Australia CEO Nicole Rogerson told SBS News that services for adults with autism were extremely limited in Australia, and called for more opportunities and resources to be available to help people find employment.
“We want to make sure that people with disabilities are placed in appropriate employment, and when it works in both ways in both categories, it’s just a wonderful outcome,” Ms Rogerson said.
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READ: The Conversation - Autism, girls and diagnosis (Autism Association of Western Australia)
READ: Autism prevalence rate up by an estimated 40% to 1 in 70 people (Autism Spectrum Australia)
FIND out more about the IGNITEABILITY Small Business Start-Ups Program