There is change in the air. The notion that people with autism have a significant skill set that is viable and valuable to the workforce, is no small revelation. However, autism is a spectrum disorder and even in this dramatic statement, there is room for growth and interpretation.
Wall Street Journal reporter Shirley S. Wang investigates a new era of job prospects for autistic individuals. How Autism Can Help You Land a Job is an in depth article that explains just how specific skills indigenous to people with autism, just might be the ticket to work.
People who are structured, smart and dependable are in demand, for many positions at SAP a software based company in Dublin. Managing Director Liam Ryan enthusiastically describes the program Some employers increasingly are viewing autism as an "asset and not a deficiency in the workplace " "Autistic people have no issue going through college courses" He refers to the fact that there is an IT skill shortage and there are some people with autism that fill that requirement.
Freddie Mac has raised the bar as well, by sponsoring career tracking internships.The lender hired its first full-time employee from the program in January, according to a Freddie Mac spokeswoman. In IT, the company has found that interns often perform well in testing and data-modeling jobs that require great attention to detail and focus as well as a way of seeing things that might not have been anticipated by the developers.
Now the hard work begins. While people on autistic spectrum have brilliant and hyper vigilant work ethics, much needed in the IT industry, there is a significant number of individuals who have more involved impediments within the disability. This does not mean they cannot, or do not want to work. It simply means the powers that be in the work force must be more creative and offer unique opportunities.
Two years ago, I wrote Aging and autism a tenuous journey:
Four years ago, I was preparing dinner while listening to the news. When I heard NBC's Brian Williams I stopped, and noted that history might actually be taking place. It was a story of pride and hope. Randy Lewis, Vice President of Walgreen had implemented a work force that hopefully would change the face of employment for those with disabilities. Mr. Lewis, prompted by concerns for his son Austin, diagnosed with autism, recognized the vacuum in the arena of jobs for adults with disabilities. He devoted a Walgreen Distribution Center in Anderson, South Carolina to hiring workers with developmental disabilities. Mr. Lewis said that "Austin's gift to me was to look past the disability and see the person".
The irony here is that this particular distribution center is 20% more efficient than all others in the Walgreen Company, and it is staffed by more than 40% disabled individuals. The building is designed with touch screens and flexible work stations. Randy Lewis's model of "same pay, same job, same performance" would hopefully have been a prototype for future companies.
The most compelling emotion that Mr. Lewis shared was the burning question that we as parents can identify with: "What would happen after I'm gone...could I live that one day longer than my child?" It was answered by a mother in the interview: "I don't have to have that worry anymore...as long as he does his job; he'll have a home at Walgreen."
Six years have passed. The seeds have been planted, by Randy Lewis, SAP, Freddie Mac, and Specialisterne, an autism focused training and consultancy firm.
Now it is time to be fruitful and multiply.