Some Companies Finding Adults with Autism an Asset in the Workplace

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • The majority of adults with autism are unemployed. It isn’t that they don’t have the intelligence or the ability to do the work. Often, it is because they don’t have the social skills - they can’t get past the interview process or, when they do, they don’t interact well with coworkers. They have a hard time navigating the social aspects of working. Many simply don’t receive the supports they need or have access to resources to help them succeed at work.

    Fortunately, the situation is changing, even if it is a slow change. recently reported about a company in California that believes employees with autism are an asset to their organization. MindSpark creates digital applications such as DailyWellnessGuide, EasyHomeDecorating, and HomeworkSimplified. Max Parker, one of three employees with autism, is a software analyst.

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    The company used to outsource work to India according to the CEO, Chad Hahn. His wife, a social worker, was sure that “high-functioning” autistic adults would be good candidates for the job and Hahn decided to give it a try, insisting, “This is not a charity.” Instead, it is honest pay for a honest job.

    Other companies are also looking at hiring those on the autism spectrum. The software company SAP specifically recruited individuals with autism for software testing positions. “Only by employing people who think differently and spark innovation with SAP be prepared to handle the challenges of the 21st century,” said Luisa Delgado, SAP’s board member for human resources.

    Freddie Mac, a U.S. home financing firm,  began a second round of paid internships specifically for individuals with autism. The firm’s diversity manager, Stephanie Roemer, stated, “Historically, there seemed to be a certain perception of this population as being incapable of performing corporate level work. In reality people on the spectrum offer so much to an organization...willing to think outside the box and view this cadre of talent as a ‘value add’.”

    Many of the companies opening their doors to those on the spectrum are from certain industries: engineering, technology, science and mathematics. But that doesn’t mean those are the only fields those on the spectrum are suited for. Ari Ne’eman is the president of the Washington DC based Autistic Self Advocacy Network and is a member of the U.S. National Council on Disability. He is also autistic - working in politics and public policy.

    One concern is how these employees are viewed by others. Will they be seen as valued employees? As someone with skills to complete a job and do it well? Or, will supervisors and co-workers want to change the employee, wanting them to better fit in with their co-workers? The companies purposely hiring those on the spectrum aren’t doing this as charity work or because of some sense of social responsibility. These companies are reaching out because they feel individuals with autism have something to add to their company, something that makes good business sense.

Published On: December 03, 2013