Entrepreneurship is a viable career path – and a fulfilling alternative – for adults with autism. You don’t need a college degree or lots of job experience to start your own business, but you do need a basic understanding of how to run a business. Fortunately, you can find low-cost or free resources online to help you start a business.
Advantages of Online Learning for Adults with Autism and Intellectual Disabilities
While individuals with autism can and do succeed at traditional colleges and universities, these environments can also be stressful, which can make it difficult to learn. Traditional degree programs can also be expensive and time-consuming to complete.
Online business classes tend to be more flexible and affordable than traditional business courses. You often have the option to learn at your own pace and schedule. You can study or watch lectures in the evening if you’re a night owl and replay instructional videos as needed. Online learning also lets you access classes from institutions outside your local community.
Types of Online Business Classes
There are several different formats for online business classes. The best format for you will depend on your strengths, preferences, and resources.
Live Virtual Classes
These classes are the most similar to the traditional classroom experience. Your teacher will meet with the class virtually at certain times on specific days, typically using a meeting software like Zoom. In a live virtual class, you should have the opportunity to ask questions and interact with the teacher in real-time, either directly through video or in a text chat. You might also have homework to complete outside of class.
If you like having a structured schedule and (virtual) face-to-face meeting time with your teacher and other students, look for live virtual classes at your local community college, public library, or other community organizations.
Self-Paced Video Classes
This type of class is pretty different from the traditional classroom experience. Instead of a teacher telling you what to do, you can watch instructional videos and complete assignments at your own pace (at least for the duration of the class.) You can learn at times that are convenient for you, and you may be able to use adaptive technology to help access the course materials better. Many self-paced online courses give you lifetime access to the materials, so you can go back and review content as needed.
If you like working independently on topics that interest you, there are lots of self-paced video classes available on sites like Coursera and Udemy. You can find classes based on topic, length, and skill level.
These classes blend the best of live and self-paced online classes. You can watch videos and complete the homework on your own schedule, but you still have the opportunity to check in weekly (or sometimes more often!) with an instructor who can answer questions and help you brainstorm and clarify your ideas.
Our Spark 101 and Start a Business courses are both hybrid format online business classes. Spark 101 is a 2-week introductory course where you explore your strengths and interests to see if self-employment is a good fit for you. Start a Business is a 6-week course that will teach you how to launch your business. Both have a library of short instructional videos and fun interactive digital worksheets for you to complete on your own, along with weekly check-ins with our instructors.
Optimizing Online Learning for Adults with Autism
We found that the hybrid format works best for our adult students with autism because they get the flexibility to learn on their own schedule and in their own way, while still getting the support they need from us to successfully complete the program. We have years of experience working with students with autism and intellectual/developmental disabilities, and have designed our courses specifically with those needs in mind.