As of late, there have been a few articles in the media I've located via entering "autism" as a search in Google news. These pieces deal with entrepreneurship as one solution to the problem of autistic unemployment. this article is one example, reporting on two different individuals on the spectrum that started their own business.
Yet another article which features the renowned Temple Grandin's photo as a lead-in, also extols supposed autistic strengths, such as the oft-repeated excellent attention to details that persons on the spectrum supposedly have. The article claims this makes people with autism suited for various occupations, but is rather vague on what these specific professions are and how superior attention to details can help autistic people start their own businesses and actually make a gainful living. One of the individuals mentioned in both articles has a son who started a yard work and landscaping company and apparently relies on an assistant to help him with this endeavor. How yard work is suited for someone with attention to detail I don't understand.
Temple Grandin has weighed in, stating that if more autistic people are allowed to develop their talents and interests, they can start their own business. Autism Speaks has had town meetings where they've encouraged people on the spectrum to start their own businesses. This is interesting from an organization almost completely lacking in transparency as to whether or not they employ people on the spectrum in their organization.(I realize Kerry Magroo and perhaps one or two others are exceptions to this rule).
A short time ago, I wrote a blog post where I discussed one of the possible origins of the "attention to details" mantra and why it may not actually be valid for most persons on the spectrum, let alone assisting them in employment.
I've actually had first hand experience with this as an individual on the spectrum who has attempted to start my own business. In the mid eighties, after I'd been forced to resign from my clerical position at the local phone company, I attempted to start a typing and word processing business. I lived close to UCLA at the time (I've since moved) which was a prime location for this set up as there are a number of college students who would be potential customers. I advertised in the daily bruin (UCLA paper) and other places and had some customers. Though some people were satisfied with my work, others weren't and I lost some clients. The students usually waited to the last minute before their papers were due to finish them, so the turnaround times were horrendously short. In addition to the dissatisfied customers, having to accommodate the people was tremendously aggravating and it was far more stressful than having a job with regular hours. I had a really tough time and finally called it quits and started learning medical transcription around 1986 which I worked in sporadically from about 1987-1988 to about 2006. My supposed "attention to details" did not help.
Aside from having a disability that might make this difficult, how do non-handicapped people typically fare when starting a business? I had a friend who was a tree surgeon. In fact he learned the trade from his father who had a successful tree company starting when he was quite young. In his twenties, he decided to start his own business. He had a very hard time, it took him quite a while to establish a clientele and he had trouble paying a lot of his bills. Many times he contemplated whether it was worth doing and whether or not he should just drop his business and go out and get a job.
Eventually he was able to establish a reasonably successful tree company, but it took several years of capital investment and hard work.
According to oft-cited statistics80% of all businesses fail within the first 18 months of their existence.
Starting a business requires hard work, capital outlay and probably excellent social skills (which are saliently lacking in most autistic persons). It is really tough going for a non-handicapped person. Is it realistic for most autistic people? Gadfly doesn't think so.