‘What is autism?’
According to The National Autistic Society Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them.
It would be unrealistic to group all people with the autism as every individual is different. There are those with autism are able to lead independent lives others may need lifetime support.
Recently my youngest brother at the age of 20 has been diagnosed with ASD, from reading information out there me and my siblings knew our brother had some of the traits but weren’t sure, he is currently studying towards a degree. My brother has some social constraints which he is working towards improving and wants to be able to find a job after graduation. My concern is how some employers are fixated on trying to find a mythical perfect employee who ticks all the check boxes at the same time missing out on a perfectly capable and loyal employee.
It is estimated that 695,000 people in the UK may have autism spectrum disorder, depsite this figure though fully capable of doing a job only 15% of people with autism are in full time employment. This isn’t because the 79% of people with autism don’t want to work it is more about finding the right environment for them to work in and employers being able to provide that environment. It is not just employers we should be looking at educating but also work colleagues. Company culture is something all job seekers look at when looking for a job, for those with ASD this is no different. Whilst researching this piece I came across situations where people with autism have made requests to help them to do their job but were met with comments from colleagues thinking they are making up their autism or are trying to get special treatment. Just because a person with autism may not show any visible disabilities does not mean it doesn’t exist.
Only employing someone with ASD
There are companies who will only employ those with autism. Companies with this approach will adapt their interview process to make it less daunting and to gauge the skills and knowledge of the interviewee. The intentions of these type of companies are noble but we should also be looking at how to integrate those with autism with those who are considered ‘normal’. We need to be looking at ways employers, work colleagues and those with autism can all work together.
Every person on the autistic spectrum is different, what worked for this company may not work for another, it is about finding the right balance and people who understand what is required to get the best out of a person whether that is working in an IT environment or a library.
I would say to employers, before disregarding someone due to autism or any mental illness because you think they won’t fit in with the company culture, think if it is time to change your company culture?