Autism and IDD in the Workplace



  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence rate of Autism Spectrum Disorder is now 1 in 68.  This is a 30% increase since 2012 when it was 1 in 88.
  • The Autism Society in North Carolina reported that 1 in 58 children has Autism in North Carolina.
  • Approximately 80% of adults with Autism and/or other IDD are either unemployed or underemployed.

The Power of the Dream, Inc (POD) is a Raleigh, NC- based nonprofit organization that was founded to address the employment challenges of the current and future workforce in the autism spectrum disorder and other intellectual developmental disabilities communities (IDD).  Founded in 2008, their efforts focused on advocacy for micro-enterprise training, skill development, and community opportunities. This included listening to self-advocates and helping businesses, legislatures, and the community at large to better understand the challenges people with autism and/or IDD face in the workplace and community.

Since then, POD evolved to incorporating  four program pillars designed to address barriers in employment and income. These include:

HANDmeUPs Thrift Store– The thrift store is located in North Raleigh and has been in operation for over four years. It employs over 20 individuals with autism and/or IDD at above minimum wage.  HANDmeUPs has been a top rated Great Nonprofits Award recipient for over four years, and was named Employer of the Year by The Arc of the Triangle in 2016 and in 2014 by Raleigh Mayor’s Committee for Persons with Disabilities.

PowerUP Micro-Enterprise (ME) – As an empowering complement to traditional employment, PowerUP ME focuses on customized self-employment. Its 10-week course and seasonal workshops teach adults with autism and/or IDD and their supports how to create and execute their own micro-business plan.  Additionally this past year, their pop-up PowerUP Market was created to give real life experience in the community for budding micro-entrepreneurs to sell their products throughout the year. 

New! Inclusive Careers is an exciting work in progress. From their multi-year initiative, PowerUP Triangle Inclusive Employment Collaborative, barriers to employment were identified and recommendations to address them formulated the goal to design an online job portal that will connect work-ready adults with autism and/or IDD with eager, trusted employers in the NC Triangle. The program will also provide information and referrals to local hiring and key accessibility resources and strategies.

New! Financial Education and Coaching. Financial Education and Coaching is offered to adults with autism and/or IDD to facilitate good planning on how money is spent and how it can be optimized to achieve financial goals. Workshops and FREE one-on-one coaching is offered throughout the year on a variety of topics.



Finding employment can be a frustrating process for anyone.  However, the job search process can be further exacerbated by the common stereotypes and prejudices directed towards this population. Potential employers may have misconceptions about their abilities and may not be aware of appropriate accommodations.  As job candidates, individuals with autism and/or IDD may struggle with the common online application process and traditional interviews.

The Power of the Dream recognizes the challenges that adults with autism and/or IDD and potential employers face.  There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Therefore, exploring options and working to determine the appropriate fit is the key to a long-term and successful working relationship.

How You Can Get Involved?

INCLUSIVE HIRING. Reach out to The Power of the Dream and learn about workplace solutions that can be customized for your company.

DONATE. The Power of the Dream is a 501c3 nonprofit organization.  All donations go towards the building and continuation of programs.

VOLUNTEER. The organization uses volunteers year around in support of their programs.  Volunteer opportunities include: teaching assistants, social media, marketing, fundraising, writers, and more.

PARTICIPATE. Contact The Power of the Dream and learn how their PowerUP ME, Inclusive Careers, or Financial Education and Coaching programs can be beneficial to you, family members, and support networks.

For more information about The Power of the Dream and their programs, please contact them at

Interested in Learning More About Autism and the ADA?

Additional Training Resources:
Mental Illness, Intellectual Disabilities and the ADA
Understanding Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome or High Functioning Autism

Register online or call 866-352-9539 and use Priority Code 18618 and Discount Code G3114521 when registering to receive a 15% discount on all orders.

REMEMBER: The Autism Spectrum Disorder includes people with genius IQs, nonverbal individuals, extroverts, introverts, artists, technical professionals, and those who are unable to care for themselves.  Therefore, every employee with autism and/or IDD has varying abilities and needs.

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