Polly's pages (aka 'Donna Williams')

Ever the arty Autie

Is the system keeping the ‘disabled’ disabled?


Hidden Depths by Donna Williams A large percentage of adults with Aspergers Syndrome (considered a form of ‘high functioning autism’) are employable, even if only able to manage part time work or minor self employment. Chronic underoccupation and unemployment is way too common for adults on the autism spectrum with around 80% being without paid work and most of those living on disability benefits even though a significant percentage of those people also do not identify as being ‘disabled’.

Most on disability benefits cannot afford to live independently so live with their parents even in their 30s, 40s and beyond. Those who live independently commonly have little money to spend on furthering their qualifications through courses. Once on disability benefits most fear even doing voluntary work or work experience or even starting up any form of minor self employment because they commonly feel that if they are seen to be capable of that they’ll risk losing their disabled status and with it their disability benefits.

Voluntary work and work experience are two affordable means of adults on the autism spectrum gaining work skills without significant financial outlay and many learn better through doing than they do through learning academically and then expected to extrapolate from academic learning to actual skills.

Those engaged in healthy volunteering opportunities, diversity friendly work experience or building some form of self employment get to better develop and keep up social skills, build more self esteem, a stronger and more grounded sense of identity as people, and through staying mentally and physically active and engaged with the world are less likely to spend that energy caught up in their own neuroses, risking progressive mental health challenges.

So given this catch 22 that keeps most people with AS living as ‘disabled’, what do you suggest can be done to change this?

Donna Williams, BA Hons, Dip Ed.
Author, artist, singer-songwriter, screenwriter.
Autism consultant and public speaker.

I acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the Traditional Owners of this country throughout Australia, and their connection to land and community.