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With a little understanding the technology sector is the perfect fit for those with Autism.

What do Bill Gates, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein have in common?    They were all visionaries who achieved more in their lifetime than most, and all three were reported to have Autism.  Luckily for them and us, their strengths outshone any weaknesses brought about by their condition and they were able to thrive through their work.

For most people in the IT industry, it is more likely they have worked with or are working with people who have autism than in any other industry. They may describe their autistic colleagues as having strong attention to detail, being very honest in discussion and having a fantastic ability to remember information.

Michael Fieldhouse, founder of the Dandelion Project, an initiative that helps people of the autism spectrum find employment in cyber security, data analytics and software testing said that “we have to get better at tapping untapped talent pools to fill our needs” and that aligning autistic strengths to IT orientated jobs is a “win-win situation” for the company and the individual [1].

Recent hiring of autistic people for cyber-security related roles at ANZ was commented on by autism researcher Professor Cheryl Dissanayake from La Trobe University who mentioned that “the attention to detail, the looking for information, for detailed information, for variations in code, is critical” and that “many people with autism have very good skills to bring into that” [2] .

 

Understanding Autistic Challenges

Despite the many positives that an autistic person can bring to the workplace, often they face many challenges before they even start thinking about work.

Some of the challenges of the autistic people face:

  • Perceiving emotions of other people
  • Following unwritten social rules
  • Expressing feelings in a way people would understand or expect
  • Unbalanced skillsets
  • Difficulty with motivation levels
  • Summarising spoken information

Subsequently, it is difficult for people with Autism to gain and maintain employment. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, “the unemployment rate for people with autism spectrum disorders was 31.6%, more than three times the rate for people with a disability (10.0%) and almost six times the rate of people without disability (5.3%)” [3].

Working alongside Autism – How can you help?

Every autistic person is different, no guide you read will define the person you are working with perfectly, the more information you have however, will enable to have a better understanding prior to making judgments about an autistic person, whether you are recruiting them or working with them. The best way to truly comprehend what makes them tick is to have an open and honest discussion with that person, learn their interests, ask them how they could feel more comfortable and productive at work [4].

Like any mental health condition, talking about it is the best way to improve outcomes for the individual and the company. Happier, healthy employees are more productive and motivated to do well at work. Every honest discussion that I have ever had with a colleague or employer has enabled me to feel as if I am valued and better understood at my workplace.

These discussions add a lot of value for everyone; as a team leader it may allow you to better delegate those tasks that require a high attention to detail to those people with autism whilst delegating work that might not suit them to other people. As a human resource coordinator, it may enable you to better tailor your policies to suit staff with autism and change recruitment processes.

The work we do in the IT industry suits people on the spectrum, so let’s make sure that the environment and team in which the work is completed also suits them.

 

References:
  1. https://ia.acs.org.au/article/2019/why-autistic-people-excel-in-tech.html.
  2. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-12-04/autistic-workers-recognised-for-unique-skill-set-anz-recruiting/9207862.
  3. http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/4430.0Main%20Features752015
  4. hrmonline.com.au/section/featured/autism-in-the-workplace