Although the rate of diagnosis for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) has increased significantly over recent years, there still is a big deficit in the number of employment opportunities for adults with ASD. Currently, 1 in 68 children are being diagnosed with Autism in the United States. This number should be a huge wake up call for businesses, as it would be best for their organization to begin to implement programs that will enable Autistic individuals to find a place in their company. There are several ways in which businesses can create a workplace that is suitable and welcoming for those with ASD.
Several companies have already begun to accommodate Autistic individuals by giving them employment opportunities that fit their needs. For example, software corporation SAP has put a plan together to have Autistic individuals make up at least 1% of their total workforce by the year 2020. Freddie Mac, leading mortgage finance company, has partnered with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network to employ Autistics in paid internship positions. Both of these companies have embraced the fact that Autistic individuals possess various strengths, and will bring great value to their organization.
Many individuals with ASD find comfort in following a routine and sticking to an organized plan, therefore they may seek opportunities that allow them to do jobs that involve repetition or detail-focused work. As more companies begin to realize that Autistic individuals bring great advantages to their business, they should create an environment that is Autism-friendly.
First, companies should opportunities for Autistic individuals to learn visually, through images and written word, rather than spoken discussion. In addition, clear instructions should always be provided for job tasks. Many individuals with ASD have an incredible ability to focus on following directions, but employers should be careful with their word selection, avoiding metaphors and confusing phrases. Instructions given in writing are ideal, as these individuals can always refer back to them.
Companies should also provide structure. Many individuals with ASD thrive on a rigid structure and steady routine, creating their greatest outcome. Changes to one’s routine can throw them off and make them lose focus. If a change needs to be made, time needs to be given to the employee to help them adjust and prepare for their new schedule or task.
Lastly, the work setting should be comfortable for those with ASD. In order to create an Autism-friendly workplace, employers should be aware of their heightened sensitivities. For example, sitting in a noisy environment can be incredibly distracting and cause stress, therefore resulting in less productivity. Employers should provide quieter, more peaceful options for those with ASD, as well as opportunities for them to catch short breaks if they feel overwhelmed.
The ICare4Autism International Conference will be discussing the Global Autism Workforce Initiative on June 30th in NYC. Several speakers will be discussing the importance of creating Autism-friendly workplaces, and the benefits of incorporating those with ASD into a company’s workforce. Stephanie Sherlock Roemer, Director of Diversity, Office of Diversity and Inclusion at Freddie Mac, will be participating in an important round-table discussion. This is an Autism conference that you will not want to miss! Early bird ticket specials are still available! To select your tickets, please click here.