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Autism in the Workplace: Taking Advantage of a So-Called Disability

Posted by Brian Spence on Oct 2, 2017 8:00:00 AM

Autism, Behavioral HealthAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, roughly one out of every 68th child born is said to fall somewhere along the autism spectrum. Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, is the name for a group of developmental disorders that include a wide range, or spectrum, or symptoms, levels of disability, and skills. Let's key in to that last word there: Skills. Roughly 80 percent of adults currently diagnosed with ASD are either unemployed or underemployed.

Those impacted experience a vast amount of difference in severity. Many of those diagnosed with ASD are fully capable of employment and performing required job tasks. In fact, they can, and do, excel.

People diagnosed with Autism are often known to possess incredible skills. Some of these skills include an intense attention to detail, flawless memory, data deduction, mathematical precision, and proficiency in spatial and mechanical abilities, some to the point of being a savant. As an employer, it seems rather unwise to not take advantage of such a skill set.

Adults with ASD can be ineffectual in an interview to procure employment due to lacking certain social skills often associated with being diagnosed along the autistic spectrum. Those diagnosed along the spectrum can have difficulty achieving or maintaining eye contact, and are known to have poor communication skills, expressing difficulty in back-and-forth conversations.

Employers, hiring managers, and Human Resource departments employing traditional interview techniques are presenting an environment in which many who fall along the autistic spectrum will not prevail. Though those with some form of ASD do have their individual challenges, they also have many strengths. The CDC reports that 46% of children diagnosed with ASD have intelligence levels higher than normal, and are very strong visual and auditory learners. Not only are they quick students, but many have the ability to remember things for incredible periods of time and do so in great detail.

Unfortunately, largely due to this reason, many people with ASD are left taking positions that underutilize their skills and abilities. Unfortunate is a great word to use here because of a few reasons. Not only are employers missing out of potential assets in their workforce, but those with ASD that don’t attain gainful employment then need to depend on governmental agencies for support, missing the opportunity to be as independent as possible and feel the pride that comes along with that.

The good news is that several agencies have sprouted up across the globe to help with this particular problem. Companies such as The Precisionists based in Delaware hire employees and perform work on a contract basis. Specialisterne, a Denmark based non-profit, assist other companies throughout the world in hiring people diagnosed with ASD. Autism Tennessee and Vanderbilt University are working together with Specialisterne to identify skillsets and train potential employees for jobs. Organizations like this and others are working to improve the chances of companies not only hiring people diagnosed along the autistic spectrum, but utilizing their most prominent skills.

Hopefully, more companies everywhere will begin to adopt these practices and not only improve the lives of those diagnosed, but also improve their companies as well. To learn more about this and related topics, visit the Behavioral Health section of our website.

 

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Staffing Plus is a premier healthcare staffing firm that provides temporary, per diem, temp-to-hire and permanent Staffing Solutions for Behavioral Health, Education, and Healthcare settings. We have leveraged decades of experience to assist organizations with the challenges of managing their HR and Recruiting needs.