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Autism Acceptance Day: Inclusion in the Workplace

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​Many young people struggle to find their career route, even more so since the pandemic. We’re often told by employers ‘we need more professional experience’ even though we’ve just left education! However, it is slightly more difficult for those on the Autism Spectrum or similar conditions, as they have a higher chance of showing nerves which can significantly impact the application stage. 

People with autism must compete for jobs in the mainstream culture, which can be challenging for individuals with poor social communication skills, hindering their performance in job interviews and making it difficult to connect productively with coworkers. 

April 2nd is usually marked as Autism Awareness Day, however there has been a recent shift in terminology with the day now referred to as Autism Acceptance Day. "Awareness is knowing that somebody has autism but Acceptance is when you include (a person with autism) in your activities." - Christopher Banks, CEO of The Autism Society of America. This act of inclusion is a simple but important change in the understanding of the autism community.

In this article I will dive into what autism is, the advantages of hiring an autistic individual, signs to look out for (they may not always tell you they’re autistic!) and my own journey with Cpl UK. 

What is Autism? 

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a chronic, ever-changing disorder that can impact anyone around the globe – whether it’s the way they think, speak or their physical status. Autism is often misunderstood as an ‘illness’, though this isn’t the case. 

Autism is extremely varied; the term "spectrum" refers to how people with autism experience it differently. Autism is classified as a spectrum because each autistic person's needs vary; some autistic people may require more assistance than others to live the lifestyles they choose. As you grow and develop, and as you're dealing with different situations, the way autism affects you might alter. 

There is no real cause of autism, research suggests that autism develops from a combination of genetic and nongenetic. Many people believe that autism is caused by vaccines, though this is false. 

As far as I’m aware I am the only person in my family with the diagnosis, so to me this is not genetic. However, I have known families where several members are autistic, whether that’s one parent along with their child or siblings. 

Autism currently affects one out of every 100 people, and there are around 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK. 

What are the signs? 

There are many signs that come with the diagnosis. Everyone is different depending on how severe they are, though it may not be obvious in some cases.  Here are some of the signs to look out for - whether it’s just one, a few or several.

Main signs of Autism

Other signs of Autism

Difficulty understanding what others are thinking or feeling.

Not understanding social ‘rules’ – such as not talking over someone.

Severe anxiety about social situations

Avoiding eye contact

Struggle to make friends – prefer to be alone

Constantly talk about a certain topic of keen interest

Unintendedly seeming blunt, rude or not interested in others 

Like to plan things carefully before taking them on

Difficulty expressing how they feel

Recurring sleep problems

Taking things literally – i.e. not understanding sarcasm or phrases like ‘break a leg’.

Getting too close to others, or getting upset if someone is too close to them.

Having the same daily routine and struggle with changes.

Noticing small details and patterns that others don’t recall.

As some people are too nervous to tell the employer about their condition when applying for the role (I have dealt with this issue personally), I do feel it is important for everyone in the workplace to be aware of at least the main signs and possibly take into account when getting to know a new colleague.   

When hiring candidates on the spectrum, employers should ensure they build a safe environment for them to be open about any issues/conditions. Furthermore, they should clarify that stating their condition will not affect their overall application process and will be considered based on their work experience. 

Strengths of hiring an autistic individual 

Autistic people are known to have a wide range of outstanding abilities. Although they are often portrayed as having a strong talent for science or technology, their skills can also apply to other fields. These strengths can make a massive impact on the company.  

As well as their own personal talents, they can often demonstrate strong skills in the following: 

  • high levels of concentration  

  • reliability, conscientiousness and persistence  

  • accuracy, close attention to detail and the ability to identify errors  

  • technical ability, such as in IT  

  • detailed factual knowledge and an excellent memory 

A recent interesting study into the strengths and abilities of autistic employees in the workplace found increased cognitive advantages such as superior creativity, focus, and memory; increased efficiency and personal qualities such as honesty and dedication; and the ability to offer a unique autism-specific perspective. Read more here

As always, employees with a strong work ethic are the best thing to have in a workplace. Many autistic people enjoy working, especially in fields where they are passionate. It’s so important for companies to have a variety of personalities and traits as different skillsets combined can lead to higher success. Diversity of any kind always has a positive impact on a company; not only improving their brand image and enhancing their reputation but expanding their customer base to those who prioritise inclusive brands. 

Little bit about me 

I’m Rosie, my main passion is art and anything creative. I was previously an art student, then housekeeper at a low-budget hotel, and now I’m about to start my new journey as Junior Marketing Executive with Cpl UK!  

Despite having several qualifications, I’ve struggled finding the career journey for me. I was undertaking art while working part time which carried on a lot longer than anticipated due to lockdowns. One good thing that did come from this was getting one of my art pieces recognised by Disney and Marvel studios, coming top 30 in their competition! That obviously felt incredible and gave me the boost to investigate more opportunities as I thought I had more to give than what I was doing at my previous role.