Posted in : Blog
Posted on : April 14, 2022
Submitted by: Sydney Elaine Butler, Founder of Accessible Creates, External Contributor
April is Autism Acceptance Month, also known as Autism Awareness Month. The shift from "awareness month" to "acceptance month" happened because acceptance is about acknowledging autistics as part of the community, changing the public image of autism and autistics, and shifting the dialogue about autism from a negative stance to a positive one that centers autistics in that dialogue. We both want and need acceptance, not just ‘awareness’ because the quality of our lives depends on it.
The colour blue has been associated with “Autism Awareness” as it started with the organization Autism Speaks, which states, “Light it up Blue”. This idea makes it appear that Autism is only found in boys. Autism Speaks does not speak for autistics and both boys and girls, and those with other gender identities can be autistic. Along with that, autistic children become autistic adults, it is not something you grow out of, and more often adults are being diagnosed as being autistic.
We use “Red Instead” to support individuals instead of the slogan used by Autism Speaks. Along with this, the puzzle piece is not used as it implies that Autistic individuals do not fit in. Instead, we use the rainbow-coloured infinity symbol which represents the neurodiversity movement and includes the total spectrum of both neuro-divergent and neurotypical people. This indicates that neurological differences are a natural occurrence in people.
Challenges faced by people with Autism
Autistic individuals have challenges both in life and the workplace. Some challenges they face in life include:
These pose challenges because they are things that need great mental effort.
In the workplace, challenges include:
It is important to understand that everyone, both autistic and not, has their own challenges in life and at work. These challenges are common among autistic individuals, but that does not mean every single person with autism has these challenges and does not face other challenges. To understand more about the challenges an autistic individual you know faces in life or at work, ask them, and with this, ask how you can best support them and help them when these challenges come up or how to prevent these challenges from even occurring in the first place.
Autistic talent in the workplace
There are so many benefits to having autistic talent in the workplace at all levels, not just in entry-level positions. A lot of companies are still keeping this talent for jobs that require lower skills, it is important to understand that autistic individuals are among the group that go to get higher education in their area of interest and area they wish to work in.
Therefore, should also be put in higher positions within an organization including management. There are so many benefits to having neurodivergent talent in the workplace. Autistic individuals often bring new perspectives into an organization which is important in management and leadership roles. In any level of the organization, the benefits include that they dedicate their time to one specific interest, enjoy repetitive tasks and much more. The most important benefit is that everyone has unique experiences and skills as well as interests that they can offer.
How to support neurodivergent talent all year long
It is important to support all employees in the workplace. However, I am going to share some tips on how to support neurodivergent/autistic employees not just during April but all year long.
1. Have a conversation with your neurodiverse employee(s), and when this happens listen to them too intently as they speak.
Evaluate your organization's culture towards neurodivergent employees by asking them how they feel about the culture and start fixing or addressing the issues with the culture they have.
2. Accommodate on an individual basis and provide them with what they say need to succeed - not what you assume they need to succeed. Keep in mind that what one person needs to succeed is different than what another person needs to succeed.
3. Remove barriers in the workplace to ensure the success of everyone.
It is important to see where the barriers are in the workplace, and remove them where possible. Any barriers that can not be removed but still pose as barriers for specific individuals must be removed or addressed for the individual experiencing the barrier. Everyone has the right to have a barrier-free work environment.
For more tips, tricks and training, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I provide virtual workshops and consulting for companies to become more accessible and inclusive, and educate employers on neurodiversity and accessibility from a Human Approach and Human Resources Lens.
NOTE: In an effort to shed light on a variety of topics and from various perspectives within the IDEA space, we have collaborated with external contributors. As such, the views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those held by CCDI Consulting Inc.