Earlier this month, Microsoft announced its plan to hire more people on the spectrum. The reason? Good business sense.
What corporate workers mean by good business sense is supported by the following statistics: autistic consultants are 10% more likely to detect bugs in software; they are more likely to exhibit an Increased Perceptual Capacity; and generally demonstrate superior memories, to name a few advantages.
Microsoft is following a larger trend among companies to capitalize on this asset while also combatting the stereotypes surrounding autism. In order to raise awareness, they plan to emphasize strengths over weaknesses and illustrate just how independently persons on the spectrum can operate.
It’s important to note amidst this rallying that not all autistic persons are savants, however. Indeed, only 1-10% of this population demonstrates such capacities. Nevertheless, the strengths mentioned above are exhibited commonly in adults with autism spectrum disorder. Advocate Temple Grandin says, “The autistic brain is good at something and bad at something else.”
To date in the UK, only 15% of autistic adults are employed as full-time workers, though 61% who are unemployed claim to be seeking work. With Microsoft’s announcement, successful employment rates will hopefully increase. In order to make this happen, it’s important that more programs prepare autistic individuals to enter the workforce.
Consequently, it’s imperative that the workforce learns to employ and accommodate these people. It is only by doing so that we are able to make strides in the effort to decrease stigmatism and increase people-first interactions.
By Sara Power, Fordham University