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ASPartOfMe
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28 Apr 2021, 3:00 am

Why Autism Speaks Is Encouraging Companies To Hire Those On The Autistic Spectrum _ Forbes

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April unemployment numbers were expected to be positive overall. Still, if you take a closer look at the economic recovery, it reveals not everyone is experiencing a rebound in job opportunities. In fact, there is an entire sector of people rarely discussed when it comes to employment data.

Adults diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) continue to struggle with unemployment or underemployment issues at an extremely high rate, which has only been amplified during the pandemic. Studies estimate a staggering 50-75% of the 5.6 million autistic adults in the U.S. are unemployed or underemployed. Nearly 50% of 25-year-olds with autism have never held a paying job, despite having the skill sets and expertise to excel in the workplace.

In response to this, Autism Speaks recently launched its Workplace Inclusion Now (WIN) program. It is an evidence-based employment system to build and support an inclusive, welcoming workplace culture through a comprehensive suite of resources. WIN takes a two-prong approach to equip job seekers with autism with tools and resources to empower them in employment and leadership opportunities. They will also be working with employers to create welcoming workplaces and providing the resources and tools to create a culture where all employees can thrive.

I spoke with Valerie Paradiz, Ph.D., Vice President, Services and Supports at Autism Speaks, about this program. She also is on the autistic spectrum.

When asked what she feels has been the most significant obstacle in getting those on the spectrum hired, Ms. Paradiz answered, “From a high-level perspective, the barriers have been that autism and neurodiversity have been an afterthought when it comes to conversations about diversity and inclusion. In business, colleges, post-secondary training – it’s starting to reach that level of attention and discussion culturally, but we barely scratched the surface. The obstacles are many, and they are housed within different elements. Employers have one set of obstacles, and those on the spectrum have obstacles in being hired or just accessing the support they need to be hired.”

From a United States perspective, and based on their data, Autism Speaks shared that:

Studies estimate that 50 to 75 % of the roughly 5.6 million autistic adults in the U.S. are underemployed or unemployed.
Nearly half of 25-year-olds with autism have never held a paying job.
More than 60% of autistic young adults are neither working nor pursuing education/training post-high school in the U.S.
In terms of the global unemployment rate, the National Autistic Society in the U.K. released a survey in 2016 that confirmed the 85% number. They found that:

Under 16% have full-time paid work
16% are in part-time paid employment
In all, less than a third of autistic adults have any paid work
Just over half (51%) of autistic people who are working said that their skills were higher than those their job required (underemployed)
“There are many programs out there, but how do we scale it to where we need?” Paradiz asks. “That’s why we developed WIN. It’s not just saying, ‘Here are programs that we offer,’ but it’s asking the question of how do we convene communities so they can build their ecosystems of support.

A point to highlight is that employing a person on the autistic spectrum is not a charitable act. It’s more about matching an ASD individual to a job that is right for them and the company.

Dr. Paradiz confirmed this. “We know from companies who have presented case data that it’s not a charity move,” she said. “It’s good for the bottom line. Ensuring neurodiverse and autistics are part of that in the workplace is a value add to an organization.”

On a related note, there is often a belief that if you’re autistic, your talents lie strictly in the IT or Finance sector. Dr. Paradiz pushes back on this.

“What I feel gets underemphasized that there’s a lot of leadership in the tech and finance sectors with prominent media around their successes in hiring autistic individuals, but just like everyone else, we, autistics, are as broad of a spectrum as the rest of the population. We’re not all coders or finance people. It’s important to point out that we need to scale in all industries. We are very much focused on partners in manufacturing and are moving into other sectors. Our approach is a professional-based approach and not a pedigree approach. That’s one of the significant differences one could make as an employer if you want to connect that dot with your company. It will be more relatable for those employing, and skill-based interviews and descriptions are vital factors.

The WIN initiative has started in Centerville, Iowa, home of Lee Container, a leading national manufacturer of blow-molded plastic containers for various industries. Autism Speaks will collaborate with Lee Container’s employees and managers and other businesses, service providers, educational and training institutions, and community leaders. “We want to make Iowa the blueprint for a nationwide effort towards a more diverse and accepting workforce culture in the U.S.,” Dr. Paradiz shared.

When I first started at Autism Speaks just over two years ago, I wanted to address employment. Having a job can make for meaningful days, connects you to your community, and provides you income so you can be as independent of a person as whatever it looks like for you,” she said. “We started on the heels of our thought leadership summit in 2019, and spoke to researchers, community members, ASD service providers, etc., and based on their recommendations – we took the cue to need to scale successful programs.”

Paradiz shared that their suite of programs is very robust and offers online training for all involved. This includes training for companies, managers, and Human Resource professionals. Then, there’s another training for co-workers that work side-by-side with neurodiverse and ASD employees and a course for post-secondary institutions to make their learning environment, both physical or online, more accessible to learners with autism through universal design principles.

“There’s also training for those on the spectrum and how to navigate your differences in the workplace,” Paradiz disclosed. “It’s been built on years of work I’ve done creating this program to teach people with autism self-advocacy skills. This course is specifically about advocating for yourself at work, your sensory needs, your social communication differences, your executive function differences, and managing your workspace so you can feel safe, comfortable, and productive.”

“Some of the data we know from case examples among other employers hiring autistic individuals can also lead to lower turnover rates,” Dr. Paradiz added. “Other case studies have proven innovative for products when autistics are involved on team-leading cost savings. They are extremely loyal and hard working people. If you, as an employer, have specific pain points where you’re needing to fill roles, you could be overlooking a very large pool of untapped talent.”

As we end our conversation, Dr. Paradiz adds, “I’m so proud of our team as it was a heavy lift, and everything we built was with autistics. The next step is that platform!”


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Mona Pereth
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28 Apr 2021, 10:25 am

ASPartOfMe wrote:
Why Autism Speaks Is Encouraging Companies To Hire Those On The Autistic Spectrum _ Forbes
Quote:
...

I spoke with Valerie Paradiz, Ph.D., Vice President, Services and Supports at Autism Speaks, about this program. She also is on the autistic spectrum.

[...]

Good to see they have someone on the autistic spectrum involved in this effort. Looks like Autism Speaks has been slowly coming around to doing things right.


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ASPartOfMe
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28 Apr 2021, 11:34 am

Mona Pereth wrote:
ASPartOfMe wrote:
Why Autism Speaks Is Encouraging Companies To Hire Those On The Autistic Spectrum _ Forbes
Quote:
...

I spoke with Valerie Paradiz, Ph.D., Vice President, Services and Supports at Autism Speaks, about this program. She also is on the autistic spectrum.

[...]

Good to see they have someone on the autistic spectrum involved in this effort. Looks like Autism Speaks has been slowly coming around to doing things right.

They also have also Dr. Stephen Shore on their board of directors. Dr. Paradiz was on their board of directors. Yet I still often see autistics claiming they have no autistics employed and that they are pro cure which was taken out of their mission statement in 2016. There are still many problems of significance there but the ND movement has not moved beyond the hate group Austism Speaks of 2010.


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28 Apr 2021, 12:29 pm

There is still a HUGE difference between hiring a qualified person who happens to have an ASD, and hiring someone less qualified because they have an ASD.


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kraftiekortie
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28 Apr 2021, 12:45 pm

I've met Valerie Paradiz. She's a nice woman.

Her son was the subject of a biography entitled "Elijah's Cup." Her son emerged from "classic" autism into an Aspergian-like presentation. I've met him, too.



Mona Pereth
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28 Apr 2021, 6:23 pm

Fnord wrote:
There is still a HUGE difference between hiring a qualified person who happens to have an ASD, and hiring someone less qualified because they have an ASD.

Of course. Hopefully someday someone will start an organization of autistic autism professionals. Such an organization would, among other things, make it easier for autism-related charities to find and hire qualified autistic people.


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Benjamin the Donkey
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28 Apr 2021, 6:28 pm

People day Autism Speaks has moved on and is now more enlightened, but they have the burden of an awful record. Imagine that the KKK suddenly started promoting racial tolerance; people would be justifiably skeptical. Wouldn't it be better to just start a new organization if the goals and attitudes are so completely different?


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ASPartOfMe
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28 Apr 2021, 7:55 pm

Benjamin the Donkey wrote:
People day Autism Speaks has moved on and is now more enlightened, but they have the burden of an awful record. Imagine that the KKK suddenly started promoting racial tolerance; people would be justifiably skeptical. Wouldn't it be better to just start a new organization if the goals and attitudes are so completely different?

Autism Speaks should at a minimum apologize for the ‘Autism Every Day’ and ‘I Am Autism’ films and all the fear mongering they used.


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“My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person”. - Sara Luterman