This CBS Sunday Morning feature on “Good Work” targets the benefits and value of hiring autistic workers. We share it with you to shine a light on why it’s clearly an advantage for businesses to hire inclusively and put the potential of autistic individuals to work.
At least 80% of adults with autism are unemployed, and the figure is often thought to be as high as 90%. And in the next decade, the situation will only become more serious - half a million autistic individuals will become adults and “age out” of available services and supports.
Jennie LaFleury, Chief Accessibility Officer at Microsoft and herself profoundly deaf, developed a hiring program to bring more individuals with disabilities into their workforce. “For us, this is an opportunity to bring tremendous talent to the corporation. People with disabilities are a source of strength, a force of nature,” she said. “And autistic workers have a terrific ability to recognize patterns, pay attention to detail, and offer so many new insights.”
A cooperative program based in California, created by the German company SAP in alliance with firms such as EY and Ford, has brought 128 individuals on the spectrum into the workforce. One of the starting points for these companies is the importance of looking past differences, and developing vetting programs for employees that focus on problem-solving and collaboration. Employees are assigned mentors, and ongoing training in “soft skills” like workplace social skills is an ongoing feature of employment for those with autism. Autistic employees are not set adrift, and the training provided when employees are hired is extensive. A welcome feature are the numerous opportunities for socializing and making friends with other autistic employees.
What’s the best part of approaches like this? “Hope,” said one of Microsoft’s newly hired software engineers, an autistic software engineer named Christopher. “I like using my skills and being surrounded by people who understand and support me and think I’ve got a lot to contribute.”
GBG works right here in our community to develop the capacity of those with autism to contribute their skills and put their gifts and potential to work. We are happy to share this excellent video with our supporters to highlight the enormous abilities of those with autism related to the workplace – most certainly, a true autism advantage.