Autism Spectrum


leaving school and leading your own life

Employment Success and a Reality Check: Michael John Carley

autism employment

Michael John Carley is an autism advocate from the USA, and the founder of GRASP (Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership) a support, education and self advocacy organisation.

Diagnosed with ASD as an adult, at the same time as his young son, Michael has become an author and speaker and well as an expert in employment and autism.

Michael’s published books include: ‘Unemployed on the Autism Spectrum,’ and ‘Asperger’s From The Inside Out.’ 

Michael gave a workshop in Sydney recently, as part of the APAC Conference: ‘New Trends in Large Businesses Hiring High Potential Employees with Non-Apparent Disabilities… and the reality check.’

Michael began by looking at the big picture:

‘ASD employment initiatives get great publicity all around the world. But with all that, why is it still a mess?

This particular diagnosis has so much potential to better the world though a career and yet there is so much difficulty.

We have a huge pool of people waiting to be hired… it’s a crisis but also an opportunity.’


Michael thinks that there are many issues in the way of employing people on the spectrum, such as:

  • Confusion about disclosure
  • Worries about accommodation
  • Concerns about myths around disability discrimination laws

But, as he pointed out:

Stephen Shore has made the point; accommodations for people on the spectrum tends to be good for everyone.’

‘Confidence is key here.’

Issues with larger corporations

Michael talked about how, in his experience, corporates are generally not that keen to lead if there’s risk. They prefer to let someone else jump first.

‘Real progress usually occurs when someone at the top has a child with autism. It’s got to be top down.’

Also, he points out that lots of ASD people don’t like corporate environment.  Many people are too honest, they blurt things out. Lots of behaviours go against ‘professionalism.’

But then again, lots of people with ASD do fit in well in large corporates.  And as well:

‘Diverse companies do better!’


Finding Employment

Michael make a good point about interviews being a problematic way to get a job:

‘If someone can’t manage a 30 minute interview with people who understand them a bit, then will they have a 30 year career in that company?’

So, either the person needs to interview well or find other ways of showing skills.

And Michael said:

‘Networking is vital. Who hires strangers?  We can’t underestimate the importance of getting out and meeting people. All the stuff we hate!’

Solutions for Employment Issues

  • Rules – for us these are anti anxiety treatments, they are safety valves
  • Understanding  behavioural characteristic and seeing the positives e.g. What looks to one person like an obsession might seem a valuable passion to another.   Not being into small talk can be seen as rude or as refreshingly no bullshit.

Michael does not think that large companies are the answer.  He mentioned that experts predict that small businesses will grow exponentially.

Michael is convinced that we need infinite numbers of local organisations that learn the best ways to employ people on the spectrum and maximise their potential.

‘The person who will succeed or not succeed at work (whether they have autism or not) depends on the type of person they are. It’s about the whole person and that needs to be considered.’

Find Michael John Carley’s website here.





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