If you look around the tech industry and study some of the hiring trends in leading organizations, you’ll find that many are turning to candidates with autism spectrum disorders. And thanks to new technologies and resources, these effects are mutually beneficial.
Autism as an asset in the workplace
“Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior,” the National Institute of Mental Health explains. “Although autism can be diagnosed at any age, it is said to be a ‘developmental disorder’ because symptoms generally appear in the first two years of life.”
People with ASD have varying degrees of difficulty with communication and social interaction. They also tend to exhibit restricted interests, repetitive behaviors, and obsessive focuses. Because of these symptoms, people with ASD find it difficult to function typically in school, work, and other social areas of life.
Autism is referred to as a spectrum disorder because of the wide variation in severity of symptoms. Some people can be completely functional and live independently, while other individuals require hands-on caregivers.
According to AutismSpeaks.org, nearly one in 59 children are diagnosed with some form of ASD. This marks a 15% increase since 2016 and a 211% increase since 2008. Whether there’s actually been an increase in autism or these statistics reflect an increased understanding of what ASD entails is not clear. Either way, millions of autistic children are growing into autistic adults who need employment. And until recently, there haven’t been many opportunities available. In fact, nearly half of people with autism never find work.
“When we learned that last year – that about 40% of people were never getting employment or continuing their education – we wondered, ‘Why is that, and what happens to them?’’” research scientist Anne Roux tells NPR.
In many cases, face-to-face interviews prevent individuals with autism from getting a fair shake at jobs. They don’t tend to excel in this area, which makes it difficult to land competitive roles. They also have difficulty being flexible and adapting to changing job duties. Generally speaking, they’re much more comfortable with repetitive, predictable tasks (even ones that are technical or challenging).
But in recent years, more companies have placed an emphasis on hiring people with autism – and not just as a feel-good story or charitable cause. Employers are discovering that people with autism yield immense value in the workplace. In particular, tech companies have taken notice.
Individuals who are on the spectrum are often intellectually advanced. They also think differently than the average person, which enables them to be fantastic innovators and problem solvers. When most people are looking at an issue from one angle, they have the ability to see it from a totally different perspective.
People with ASD are also able to focus on technical tasks for longer periods of time without losing attention or becoming distracted. This is perfect for tasks like software testing.
There’s also a practical side to this. As technology has improved, it’s become easier for organizations to train people with autism in a manner that suits their unique gifts and learning styles. Video self-modeling is a great example of this.
“Video self-modeling a form of visual learning,” Intelligent Video Solutions explains. “Using this method, individuals observe themselves performing a desired behavior or task successfully. They view themselves doing this on video and then imitate those actions. Studies show that video self-modeling is particularly helpful for people with autism.”
As the industry becomes more aware of the practicality of hiring people on the spectrum, more opportunities will emerge. And as new opportunities are presented, stereotypes and misunderstandings will be replaced with one simple truth: People with autism offer tremendous value – both as individuals and as professionals.
The hope and opportunity of employment
As more people with autism are hired, a new sense of hope and opportunity emerges. Not only do jobs provide a stream of income, but they also offer dignity and purpose. And for the parents and family members of people with ASD, it offers a reason to be hopeful for the future. Here’s to watching this trend become a mainstay in the American workplace!
To learn more about how talent practices impact every stage of the employee lifecycle, read the e-book, “Talent and the Future of Work: The Essential Guide.”