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Poverty reduction for autistic adults in BC: Possible paths forward

April 29th, 2024

Aly Laube

For Everyone

Poverty disproportionately affects us as autistic adults, even though we have incredible potential. Unfortunately, we’re too often marginalized and overlooked regarding job opportunities.

Throughout their lives, Autistic folks face disadvantages when it comes to finding housing, accessing healthcare, and meaningful employment. Some of us can’t work full-time, restricting our income. Anyone without intergenerational wealth and family assistance to rely on might have to neglect their needs in favour of saving money. 

A shortage of accessible job opportunities for autistic adults is part of the problem, but conditions that commonly co-occur with autism erect additional hurdles associated with wellness, executive functioning, and sensory processing. These and other factors can make it hard to hold a steady job without being fired or needing to quit to focus on recovery. 

We already wrote a blog about some of the challenges. Now, we want to explore ways to reduce poverty. 

Autistic adults in BC told us about the actions that would empower them to improve their financial and overall health. They fell into a few key areas: Financial support and stability, access to healthcare and services, employment and career support, and social inclusion. Here’s what they had to say.

An arrow pointing up and yellow coins on a purple background. (Monstera Production/Pexels)
An arrow pointing up and yellow coins on a purple background. (Monstera Production/Pexels)

Financial support and stability

  • Offer access to financial advisors 
  • Advocate for higher wages 
  • Ensure more affordable food options 
  • Provide individualized funding and support across the lifespan 
  • Raise income maximum thresholds for financial support 
  • Offer retirement preparedness coaching 
  • Implement gasoline subsidies/discounts for caregivers 
  • Ensure access to childcare for autistic parents 
  • Establish a “disability allowance” for people with PWD status 
  • Increase AEE/PWD payment amounts 
  • Allow people to get both PWD and EI payments 
  • Avoid penalties for missed/late bank payments 
A house covered by a large bill on a yellow-green background. (Monstera Productions/Pexels)
A house covered by a large bill on a yellow-green background. (Monstera Productions/Pexels)

Housing

  • Implement rental support/rent control 
  • Make mortgages more affordable 
  • Provide more accessible and affordable autistic-friendly housing 
    • These units should be safe, secure, quiet, and transit accessible. They should also be close to pet-friendly and community gathering spaces, along with pet-friendly and community gathering spaces, health services, and stores. 
    • Dimmable lighting, quiet appliances, and temperature control would be helpful for people with sensory processing differences. 
    • Building and unit management should be autism and trauma-informed, neuroaffirming, and able to support individualized care plans. 

Access to healthcare and services

  • Provide health services at a discounted rate or for free for autistic adults 
  • Tailor treatment to different autism presentations 
  • Ensure comprehensive health benefits 
  • Ensure prompt access to psychiatric and other healthcare 
  • Cover autism-specific specialists through MSP 
  • Increase the availability of legal aid resources 
  • Provide support for coping with anxiety and developing social skills 
  • Provide support for obtaining neuroaffirming healthcare teams and in-home support 
  • Provide higher value programming/services like ongoing counselling with sliding scale fees 
  • Offer non-CBT/counselling and support groups 
  • Simplify the process of applying for government support to be more accessible 
  • Increase training for autism assessment and trauma-related care 
  • Develop more diverse and effective early interventions for community and professional settings 
A wallet with bills poking out and the word "finance" on a light blue background. (Monstera Productions/Pexels)
A wallet with bills poking out and the word “finance” on a light blue background. (Monstera Productions/Pexels)

Employment and career support

  • Facilitate autistic-friendly living options closer to autistic-friendly workplaces 
  • Create more avenues for self-employment for autistic adults interested in being their own boss 
  • Provide employment services specifically designed for autistic adults 
  • Create more at-home, part-time and remote job opportunities for autistic individuals 
  • Make instructions and expectations clear, reliable, and consistent with each person’s needs 
  • Combat workplace discrimination against neurodivergent people 
  • Offer free career counselling 
  • Create and enact anti-discrimination policies for autistic employees 

Social inclusion and awareness

  • Increase awareness and training for government, mental health, and addiction staff 
  • Involve autistic adults in decision-making processes at all levels of government 
  • Acknowledge self-diagnosis as valid and deserving of respect and accommodation 
  • Destigmatize and foster compassion among members of the general population 
  • Facilitate peer support networks that employ autistic adults in peer specialist positions 
  • Establish an online support hub with social programs for autistic people 
  • Offer education focusing on the strengths of autistic employees/employers 
  • Create more programs for older autistic individuals 
A credit card with bubbles around it containing icons to represent different expenses. It is on a purple background. (Monstera Production/Pexels)
A credit card with bubbles around it containing icons to represent different expenses. It is on a purple background. (Monstera Production/Pexels)

Income equity for racialized autistic adults

  • Advocate for anti-racism and anti-classism policy change 
  • Address intergenerational poverty 
  • Offer culturally relevant support services 
  • Expand access to education and training 
  • Promote inclusive employment practices 
  • Ensure equitable access to healthcare 
  • Support entrepreneurship and small business development 
  • Raise awareness and combat stigma 
  • Collaborate with community partners 
  • Center racialized autistic voices 

Other ideas

  • Making government applications more accessible to fill out 
  • Hiring more accessibility support providers to help people complete and send in paperwork

There’s a ton to work with in this list, from ensuring accessible healthcare to fostering inclusive employment opportunities and more. By implementing these and continuing to champion the rights and well-being of autistic adults, we can create a community where everyone has what they need to thrive, whether they’re neurodivergent or not.  

Let’s keep the conversation going and push for progress! What are your solutions to poverty for autistic adults in BC? Please share your ideas through our Contact Us page.  

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