Hiring Heroes

Autism advocate Temple Grandin (pictured), who is on the autism spectrum herself, believes people of all autistic levels can be matched to suitable jobs. "There's a national shortage of mechanics, welders, electricians, plumbers — all highly skilled jobs that autistic people can be trained to do," says Grandin. "Even lower functioning people can do jobs like folding towels in a hotel or assembling lamps."

She says employers don't need training to hire them. "It's simple: Give clear tasks and outcomes and don't give them long strings of verbal instructions."

In addition to Exceptional Minds, companies in other industries are hiring workers with special needs.

• In 2007,Walgreens opened a distribution center staffed nearly 40 percent by disabled employees. The program has been a model for others, including Procter & Gamble, Best Buy and Lowe's.

• Through a partnership with the Autism Self Advocacy Network, the mortgage company Freddie Mac has been hiring paid finance interns.

Microsoft has a pilot program that hires autistic adults for coding, software programming and math jobs.

• Rangam Consultants and Autism Speaks teamed up to create Spectrum Careers, a program that matches employers with workers on the autism spectrum.

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