Page 1 of 1 [ 2 posts ] 

ASPartOfMe
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 25 Aug 2013
Age: 60
Gender: Male
Posts: 12,941
Location: Long Island, New York

10 Oct 2017, 4:14 am

How do you solve the trickiest problems in the workplace? Employ more autistic people Neurodiversity can be a huge advantage for companies, yet people on the spectrum have often been marginalised. Now some firms are specifically seeking them out. Is this a crucial turning point

Quote:
Ray Coyle, CEO of Auticon’s British offshoot, is a former lawyer and IT specialist who has long appreciated the benefits of employing autistic people. “Some of the most loyal, capable and dedicated employees I’ve had have been on the autism spectrum,” he says. As well as innumerable mentions of “neurotypical” – in other words, non-autistic – people, he regularly uses the term “neurodiversity”, which embodies the recognition that human brains are wired in no end of different ways. We talk about the stereotypical modern working environment, its mess of ambiguity and fuzzy logic, and how autistic people often find it impossible to navigate. And he enthusiastically makes the case for companies – particularly those in IT – employing autistic people as a matter of policy.

'In the right role and with the right support, an autistic person will significantly outperform a neurotypical person'
“We’ve got to be really careful with the language we use: we don’t want to give people the impression that all autistic people are IT geniuses, or that there are not neurotypical people

As for neurodiversity, “If you’ve got a team of people on a project, and they’re all neurotypical, and your project encounters a problem, the chances are that those 20 people will all come up with the same kind of answer. Bring in someone with a totally different cognitive process and a completely different perspective, and they’ll come up with something different. And that’s invaluable.”

But according to research by the National Autistic Society (NAS), only 16% of autistic adults in the UK are in full-time work, a figure that has remained static since 2007.

Four in 10 autistic people say they have never worked at all. Around half of those who had found at least some paid employment reported workplace bullying or harassment; over a third said the support or adjustments made by their current or most recent employer were “poor” or “very poor”

There are still limits to all this: stories of breakthroughs and improvements tend to be concentrated on so-called “high-functioning” autistic people rather than those with deeper issues with communication, social interaction and sensory processing – let alone so-called “non-verbal” people. But still, with the usual caveat that autism awareness still needs to develop into genuine understanding, compared with the world of 10 years ago, the sense of progress is obvious.

Cath Leggett is a 45-year-old single mum who lives in Cardiff. She has a degree in mechanical engineering, and ended up working in flood protection, “manipulating 3D mathematical models to predict flooding”. Her work tended to involve a small team: “Five or six guys, some of who were probably undiagnosed autistic people. We all had our headphones on all day, and everyone had all the same interests as me – Doctor Who, tech, gadgets. I fitted in really well.” But a change of job meant she suddenly had to adjust to life in a huge, open-plan office: “A very social environment, more about the organisational stuff and customer service.”

At that point, she says she started to experience big problems, with “horrible overhead lights, smells like perfumes and deodorants” – and the endless complexities of office etiquette. After her daughter received an autism diagnosis, she began to realise that she too was on the spectrum – but, like many autistic women, had got used to what she calls “masking and mimicking”.

Popular understanding of autism still seems to miss out the fact that it defines the lives of adults as well as children
“I make eye contact, I smile, I can do small talk,” she says. “I know what’s expected. But at Christmas, for example, things would come to a head: I would be asked to get involved in secret Santas, and decorating the place. I was refusing flat-out, saying, ‘This is ridiculous – I’ve got work to do, leave me alone.’ I was offending people; being very direct and clear about things.” She was formally diagnosed two and a half years ago, and now works for the NAS as an employment consultant, often helping people who, like her, have been diagnosed later in life.

“Seven or eight times out of 10,” she says, “things will have gone past breaking point. Typically, we’re called in when a lot of complaints have been put in by the employee, and there have been severe impacts on their mental health. They might be being treated for anxiety or depression, and be unable to work.” In some cases, she says, the people she helps might have only realised they are autistic after a long spell of professional hell.

She has now started hosting courses specifically for women on the autistic spectrum, as well as making the case for employing autistic people to employers – something she talks about with a real sense of optimism. “I do a lot of conference speaking,” she says. “And I now get employers asking me, where do we find autistic people?” She says the answer often goes back to the culture around recruitment, and the importance of being clear and specific about what a job entails, as well as the understanding that the crude criteria often used to decide who gets which job will mean that some of the best people are cast aside.

Inevitably, for all Leggett’s positivity, our conversation ends with a lingering sense that there is a mountain of work still to be done. Apart from anything else, the popular understanding of autism still seems to miss out the fact that it defines the lives of adults as well as children. The consequences are not just a great deal of personal torment, but an ocean of potential that remains untapped.


_________________
How can Autism be trendy and a popular insult at the same time?

Recovering from tongue cancer and suspected Ramsey Hunt Syndrome (Ear Shingles), somewhat verbal.
Identified and joined WP August 26, 2013
DSM 5: Autism Spectrum Disorder, DSM IV: Aspergers Moderate Severity


B19
Forum Moderator
Forum Moderator

User avatar

Joined: 11 Jan 2013
Gender: Female
Posts: 7,518
Location: New Zealand

10 Oct 2017, 3:04 pm

"Inevitably, for all Leggett’s positivity, our conversation ends with a lingering sense that there is a mountain of work still to be done. Apart from anything else, the popular understanding of autism still seems to miss out the fact that it defines the lives of adults as well as children. The consequences are not just a great deal of personal torment, but an ocean of potential that remains untapped."

You bet.