Those living with Autism Spectrum Disorder have had, for a long time, a stigma about their capabilities and talents held against them. As we continue to learn more about the Autism Spectrum Disorder, we are also advancing the options available to those living with it. One of these options is employment.
Towers Watson, a human-resources consultancy firm, is one of the companies leading the charge in this movement. Last year, the company created a pilot program in White Plains, New York to work with autistic individuals. Towers Watson hired 18 autistic individuals to help in the review of compensation survey data submissions. Director of Eastern division sales effectiveness and rewards, Tim Weiler told the BBC Capital, these employees are, “loyal and diligent and are a lower turnover risk.” The company plans to grow the program by extending it to other locations including a service center it operates in Philadelphia, a benefits operations center in New Jersey, and a technology administration solutions location in London. More and more companies are weighing the benefits that can come from hiring autistic individuals. These potential employees would be well suited for jobs that require concentration on long repetitive tasks, the ability to remember a large quantity of information, the ability to catch patterns, and strong mathematics and coding skills.
Major technologies like Microsoft, Vodafone, SAP, and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise are the most actively recruiting autistic individuals. The interest is spreading to companies in other industries, who are beginning to open their doors. Emma Jones, a member of the employee training team at the National Autistic Society in the UK, told the BBC Capital the idea is growing. She says, “Over the last 18 to 24 months, a lot of organisations have been contacting us for assistance because they know autistic individuals have incredible strengths they’d like to tap into.” Companies like these are breaking ground and recognizing the talent within autistic individuals.
More and more companies are hiring autistic individuals, but employers are hiring these talented individuals in small numbers. Autistic individuals may struggle with interpersonal and communication skills, but they are high functioning and intelligent in other areas. Companies will need adapt and provide the appropriate training to new hires and current employees. Providing an autistic individual with employment can be mutually beneficial. The employee will grow their confidence and sense of value as they assimilate to life in a standard job, while the company will benefit from productive and focused employees. It’s an all around win-win.
Wendy Chung, a geneticist at the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative, shares her knowledge about the autism spectrum from a medical perspective.
In this video, Wendy Chung discusses the spectrum of disorders within the term “autism.” The term is a singular diagnosis for a wide range of disorders. While the number of reported cases is on the rise, that does not mean the disorder is occurring more often. There are a few factors contributing to this rise, one of them being the evolution of the definition of autism. Our understanding of autism, and its many forms, has widened, therefore encompassing more cases. A legislation enacted the early 90’s began the spread of educational materials and resources to those affected. The dissemination of this information fostered awareness in communities and more people, including parents, pediatricians and teachers began to recognize the characteristics of the disorder. Autism awareness was limited prior to the legislation, and there was no label to assign to those afflicted. As consciousness of autism grew, more people were diagnosed as the features were recognized.
Just as there is no set of specific autism symptoms, there is no specific of cause. In the same way that the term “autism” covers a wide range of cases, a wide range of factors can contribute to the development of autism. For some time, many people believed vaccines, or their ingredients, were the cause of autism. This has been disproven, and the doctor who made this false claim had his license revoked. Various factors contribute to autism, and many are circumstantial, like the father’s age, or exposure to valproic acid in pregnant and epileptic women. Chung’s talk centers on genes, and she explains there is no singular gene responsible for autism. In some instances, the genetic mutation seen in the DNA of autistic individuals isn’t inherited from the mother, or father, but the change occurs within the individual themselves at conception. Chung’s research estimates there are about 200-400 genes that can cause autism. This range of genes allows autism to be expressed in different ways, and leads to the wide definition of the disorder. As knowledge about autism develops, Chung acknowledges the distance researchers still need to cover. She calls everyone to action, and asks for people to use their “collective wisdom” to enrich the lives of those living with autism.
Please take a look at this short animation about the experience of living with autism. Those who live with autism face internal challenges, in addition to the challenges in their day-to-day lives. This short video shares a small glimpse into the emotional internal dialogue.
What a heart-warming video about autism. Check it out for more information.
Please check out my podcast for more information about being a parent of autism, as well as learning more about autism and your children.
Let us be there for each other, especially our children.
The value of a good teacher is something that cannot be replaced. Whether your child is in special education or not, a good teacher is a good leader. Teachers influence children to develop their own moral compass and other lifelong skills. They also inspire children to reach their dreams, all while motivating from the sidelines and nurturing when the time is right.
It is astonishing how many wonderful, talented people work with students with disabilities. Teachers have the task of finding new, intriguing ways to keep their students motivated and help them achieve success in the curriculum.
Having an adult figure in a child’s life that serves as a mentor and teacher, as well as a friend, is one of the most important facets to creating a better future. Teachers help shape children’s brain processes and instill in them a love for learning. It’s not an easy job for teachers to help improve the lives of their students with disabilities. It takes a lot of time and patience, as well as perseverance – especially with tantrums or miscommunications. Once a child trusts a teacher and looks up to them, the possibilities are endless. However, regardless of your child’s placement in school, event though a good teacher is hard to find, when the right one comes along it proves to be an extremely valuable part of growing up.