Short Answer: Look at your (or your child’s) gifts and challenges.
One day at work, a co-worker said that autistic people and people with ADHD make the best programmers. I suck at programming so I knew that statement is false. This caused me to look online for the best jobs for autistic people to see how many lists mention computer programming. Many different lists had different answers for the best jobs for autistic people, but those lists failed to account for the varying gifts and challenges autistic people have.
There is a sentence I have encountered in autism resources that everyone should understand: “If you’ve met one autistic person, you have met one autistic person.” This means that no two autistic people have the same gifts and challenges. Actually, no two people with the same diagnosis (regardless of if a diagnosis falls under the neurodivergent label or not) have the same gifts and challenges. However, it seems like many of the articles about the best jobs for autistic people have the same answers for “What are the best jobs for autistic people?” Articles talking about the best jobs for people with ADHD have done better to emphasize that the best jobs depend on the strengths and challenges that someone with ADHD faces.
How come these ideas of jobs that work best for us come in a one-size-fits-all package if we don’t have the same gifts and challenges? Well, I don’t know. The articles can be a good starting point to figuring out what jobs fit your strengths while being accommodating to your challenges. There are also online quizzes that you can take that will take your strengths and display jobs that may work well for you. I remember doing those quizzes once or twice in school. It might take some trial and error to figure out what job is best for you.
For me, the jobs that work best for me are administrative jobs and test engineering. Both of these jobs typically have repetitive tasks and test engineers may have tests that need to be run multiple times during a project’s life span and those tests will have you following clear step by step directions. I have also rewritten test cases for clarity and to add additional test steps to test validation. I was very successful as a test engineer, especially when writing automated software tests. I miss being a test engineer. It played to my strengths and I wasn’t being micromanaged.
The job that is the absolute worst for me is software developer. I don’t have good problem solving skills, and you have to be able to solve problems when programming. I can’t think the way developers need to think and there are no step by step instructions on how to do a task. I also felt like developer jobs forced you to be micromanaged, which was anxiety-inducing. I have lost a job and got kicked off a project due to my inability to code. It was over 5 years ago when someone at work who has been diagnosed with multiple learning disabilities noticed that I may have a learning disability, long before therapists figured out something was up. I have ultimately realized that being a software developer is not for me and I have no desire to be a software developer again.
To summarize, the best jobs for me involve:
- Clear step-by-step directions
- Repetitive tasks
- Writing clear directions once I figure out how to do something
and the worst jobs for me involve:
- Being micromanaged
- Problem solving