I take it really hard when I see someone defending the ability of A/autistic people to work or more generally "contribute to society" (not an idea I'm fond of) by saying things like:
*we can hyperfocus on something and do it really well.
*we might seem rude but if we work in a geeky environment, like if we are video game programmers, this won't matter! And if we don't our coworkers can learn to understand and forgive our rudeness because we do a good job.
*we may have more needs in some areas but we have fewer needs in other areas because we don't party/spend time on Facebook/care about fashion/play sports/something else stereotypically non-autistic. (It's too bad because the blog where I read this had a good point about "special needs" not always meaning "more needs" but I thought it wasn't helpful to rely on stereotypes this way.)
*we might have special interests in science or art that lead to us being amazingly skilled in those areas./We might have "splinter skills" or "savant skills."
People with and without autism say these things and they mean well. But I don't like it, not just because I am offended by stereotypes or something, but because it is personally threatening to me.
Every job I've ever held, and probably every job I've ever even applied for or been interested in, has been a pink-collar job.
I feel a little weird using the term pink-collar because it was coined for kind of a critical use--it refers to jobs usually done by women and the reason these jobs are in their own category is because they tend to be lower-paid than traditionally masculine jobs that have the same workload and educational requirements. But pink-collar is the only term I can find that easily covers the sort of jobs I am thinking of.
Some examples of pink-collar jobs are hairdressing, nursing, teaching, and waitressing. These jobs are a bit different from the kinds of jobs people are usually thinking of when they talk about how Autistic people can succeed in the workplace, because a lot of the job is about interacting with people other than coworkers. These don't all apply for every pink-collar job, but some of the requirements for a pink-collar job might be:
*treating people courteously and being friendly
*not hurting or abusing people
*being well-suited to working with kids
*remaining polite when someone gets mad at you
*being able to put someone else's well-being ahead of your own
*doing everything you can to fulfill someone's request
It is probably apparent that none of these qualities are stereotypically Autistic. I even see comments to that effect thrown around without much thought--that people with autism aren't good at customer service, or that we don't like kids. I'm not just trying to be all, "I'm good at customer service and I like kids, your argument is invalid!" but to point out that when even "positive" descriptions of Autistic people's work imply that we can't do certain kinds of work, it makes it harder for us to get jobs, or be open about our disability if we do get those jobs.
I know I'm not a super rare exception in a world of Autistic people who want to be electrical engineers, because I know lots of Autistic people, especially women, who want to work in special education. Special ed is a really good example of a field where, if you were applying for a job, you would want to convince your potential employer that you had all the qualities on that list. Which is to say that if your employer has been fed stereotypes of what Autistic people are like and what kind of work we can do, telling them you have autism could really hurt your chances of getting the job.
I know some people who will be open about their autism when applying for a job. I would never, ever do this. Right now I am looking for a job in healthcare and it scares me a lot to know that my disability label is associated with being violent, rude, and uncaring. I really love having this blog because I always wanted to write something that people liked and got something out of, but I regularly consider deleting it because it would be so easy for anyone who googles me to find out I have autism.
Basically what I'm trying to say is that even though my disability doesn't make me better at doing pink-collar jobs, I don't think it makes me worse at them, and I would like my suitability for them to be judged by who I am as a person instead of my disability label. I feel that even when people try to talk positively about what Autistic people can do in the workplace, they often ignore the fact that some Autistic people don't want to work in an office or in a stereotypically un-social field like science. So they don't defend us against some of the stereotypes about what we can and can't do, and sometimes they even reinforce those stereotypes by implying we are best at certain kinds of work.
I'd also like to point out that while my family was able to pay for me to attend college and I was (barely) able to finish my degree, a lot of people with autism don't have the option of the white-collar jobs we're supposed to be so good at. If you spend all your breath arguing that we can be engineers or architects, that doesn't help people who don't have the money or don't have the ability to get the education to do those kinds of jobs.
(NB that this post might not be relevant to people with autism who can't work, and some of it might be relevant to people with other disabilities like mood and psychotic disorders and intellectual disabilities.)