How Are Autistic People Supposed To Make A Living?

I explain at least part of the “making a living” problem from the point of view of an autistic person.

Tie your hat. This is a long post. Now, keep in mind the proverb:

When you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person.

I don’t claim here to talk for every single autistic person on the planet. Still, I feel I need to tackle this subject mainly due to the trolls that periodically assail one of the members of the ActuallyAutistic community in the fediverse. I’m not naming him here so that he does not get more trolls due to this article.

Okay, so how do we make a living? Most of the working world caters to neurotypical people. Harsh light. Intrusive sounds. Dress codes. Having to deal with other people. The list goes on and on. I’ve worked in an office, but I do not want to return to an office. Furthermore, I’ve worked on projects attached to an office, but I do not want to work on projects attached to an office. So no remote work as is normally understood.

“But if you worked in an office, surely you can return to an office.”

This is typical neurotypical bullshit. Cut it out! I was able to work in an office because I was able to mask. With age and my cancer, I lost a good deal of that ability. Previously, I stimmed in a stealthy way. Now, I stim openly. I used to be better able to tolerate harsh sounds when I was younger, too.

Listen, I’m not saying that I couldn’t under any other circumstance return to an office, but it would have to be a very special office, headed by someone who, against all odds, is able to deal with neurodivergent employees. Good luck finding that heaven!

So, how are we to make a living? Well, some of us could DoorDash. Yes, it is possible that I may have to do this down the road. We’re not there yet, but my current sources of income are contingent. If they disappeared tomorrow, I’d have to DoorDash. DoorDash here is just a stand in for other similar jobs.

However, I’d rather do something else than DoorDashing, thank you very much. I have nothing against the DoorDash drivers, but that’s not a job that I’d be thrilled with. I’d rather do something else. So what should I do?

What I’ve been doing all along. I write on Medium and here about multiple topics. One of them is my life as an autistic person. Hopefully, my writing is helpful to others. Most of it is accessible freely. However, I’d also like to make a living from it, if possible. So far, I’ve made some money, but not nearly enough to sustain me.

I also produce nonsensical skits on and YouTube. I love doing this. It would be nice if I could make money from this nonsense, but frankly I don’t see this happening until I partner with someone to bring the whole enterprise to a new level.

Finally, I’ve offered life coaching and tutoring services to help people. On the tutoring side, I do have formal credentials, but none of my credentials are about tutoring per se. I have a Ph.D. in Religion. I have a bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering. I speak French, etc.

On the life coaching side, I have no credentials related to life coaching at all. This is where we run into the trolls. They come in the fediverse to harass the person I mentioned above. “What formal credentials do you have to coach people.” Actually, this person does have the credentials. I do not.

However, if you want life coaching as an autistic person, here is what matters:

  1. Your life coach should also be autistic. This is first because it is the most important criterion. Enough with the paternalistic bullshit that neurotypicals like to heap on us.
  2. Your life coach should be able to empathize with you. Again, autistic people know better than neurotypicals what it means to be an autistic person.
  3. Your life coach should be able to listen to your needs without judgement.
  4. They should not peddle miracle cures.

I’m sure there’s more I could add to this list, but this will do for now. One thing that is definitely not on this list is certifications, formal training, degrees, and things of the sort. They are “nice to have,” but not dealbreakers. There is no amount of degrees that will give someone the ability to understand what it means to be autistic, or that will give them the ability to listen without judgement.

How do I know this?

Well, I’ve been “helped” by people with “training.” Most of them sucked at their job. There’s the completely useless couple’s therapist that my wife and I saw in 2018. She gave us a bunch of stupid exercises that helped nothing, with the result that in 2023 our divorce was final. Thanks a lot! Then there’s an online outfit that kept switching therapists on us. And then there’s a lady that insisted on me making lists of things that I couldn’t change and things that I could change. It was useless.

I finally got good therapy when I picked out of the pack a therapist that is queer! I did not know I was autistic at the time, so “queer” was first in my list. Oh, he’s not autistic (that I know of) but he’s one of the rare good allistic therapist. He’s helped enough autistic people in his life to know an autistic person when he sees one. He’s the first one who told me with a straight face “You might be autistic.”

Some trolls accuse the person I mentioned above of “funneling” people from free offering to paying offerings. Mind you, they have no proof of this. They see this person offering free seminars and the like, and next to those free offerings, there are also offering which you have to pay for, and from this they infer that some sort of “funneling” is happening.

Again, I ask you how are we supposed to make a living? We do have to advertise our services, at least minimally. Clients don’t fall in our lap from the sky. I’m not a fan of being bombarded by advertisements, nor am I a fan of bombarding people with advertisements. Still, we do have to advertise, or we’re going to end up asking for charity.

Sometimes it truly feels like some people in the autistic community, and outside of it, think the only authentic autistic person is one who:

  1. Can’t make ends meet.
  2. Is a failed entrepreneur.
  3. Is a struggling entrepreneur.

Any sign of success is seen as proof that the person cannot possibly be autistic, or that they are swindling someone.

Okay… now bear with me, because I’m about to make an analogy that some of you are going to find disgusting. There’s something on the internet called OnlyFans. They ask you to pay to watch porn and to be in contact with the porn stars. You know what? It looks like it works. I think some people like to be in contact with the porn stars. Now, do note that there is perfectly freely available porn sitting on the internet right next to this porn that you have to pay for.

What is going on?

The ability to be in contact with the person making the porn is what people pay for. This is it. Or maybe they feel some need to support the porn makers. I don’t know. However, the point here is that they are willing to pay, where they could get the porn they want for free.

Okay, so this was an analogy. What does it have to do with the topic at hand here? People are going to pick the services they want, for whatever reason they have, and that logic may seem nonsensical to you, but it is very logical to them. If an autistic person on the internet is successful at what they do, it is because they are providing something to their clients that another source cannot.

Here are some reasons that may seem nonsensical to you, but make sense to the people picking these reasons:

  1. I want to support a business run by an autistic person.
  2. This person has proved in the past that they listen to me, and I like this.
  3. This is a small business.
  4. Etc…

The second point in the list above is very much like my OnlyFans example. Some people are willing to pay more for a service if it means that they have a contact with the person selling this service. It does not matter one bit if that reason does not make sense to you!!!

I’m going to stop here before this turns into a full on manifesto. Just cut the crap, please!



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4 responses to “How Are Autistic People Supposed To Make A Living?”

  1. Renoir Dana :infinity_rainbow: Avatar

    @yourautisticlife I'd just like to add my voice to the support for autistic people making a living however they can. I count myself as truly lucky : most of my autistic issues I have workarounds and coping strategies for, and I have special interests that happen to align with a great career that I really enjoy. I am able to mask and work (remotely) and I even have a bit of leftover energy to support others in my organisation, and to do a bit of ASC awareness training. We need more, not less, autistic coaches, therapists, specialists, advocates and supporters. As long as you promote awareness and understanding, you're on 'my team' and I will support your right to feed yourself and your family however you can.

    1. yourautisticlife Avatar

      Thank you so much for your reply. I try to help wherever I can.

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