There is estimated to be around 500,000 adults with an Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) in the UK with only 15 per cent in paid employment. Many unemployed adults with ASC are willing and able to work. However, due to the negative traits of their condition, obtaining and maintaining employment can be very difficult.
The Autism Act 2009, and the subsequent public strategy: Valuing People Now and Valuing Employment Now has highlighted the need to significantly improve employment opportunities for people with an ASC. This is being further reinforced by new developments within the Department of Work and Pensions with a range of schemes and services that aim to provide personalised training and support in the work place.
Education and Services for People with Autism (ESPA) had a vision to do something that would provide real employment opportunities for people with an ASC. At the 2010 ESPA Graduation, Lesley Lane, Chief Executive of ESPA, and Lynne Moxon, Chartered Psychologist, showed Peter Macdonald, a former Director of Croft Technology a story about the highly successful Danish company Specialisterne which discriminates positively towards people with an ASC to work as software testers. Peter started researching the world of autism, it's positive traits and where people with ASC could provide valuable skills. Peter's own industry of IT was an obvious choice and inspired by the success of Specialisterne, Passwerk and Aspiritech created Autism Works with ESPA.
Autism Works positively discriminates towards people with ASC by providing the opportunity of sustainable employment. The model has already been successfully been implemented and operated successfully by Specialisterne in Denmark and Aspiritech in Chicago, USA. Enlightened by the approach many large IT companies, such as Microsoft, CSC and Oracle have seen a direct benefit of using Specialisterne and Aspiritech's services.
We are delighted to thank the Department of Health for having the insight and support to help us get going.
Autism in the Workplace
For many people with an ASC, being able to find a suitable job, being successful through a conventional interview process and retaining a job through developing positive working relations with colleagues can be very difficult in relation to difficulties with social skills, particularly non-verbal communication. For example, the interview process can discriminate against people with an ASC with open/abstract questions leaving the interviewee confused and anxious, resulting in high level stress.
These problems are often further increased due to employers and the general public's lack of awareness and understanding of ASC together with limited information, advice or practical support being available to employers.
Due to such misconceptions, potential strengths that people with an ASC can present as employees are often overlooked. Positive traits that an ASC presents which are clearly assets in the workplace, include:
Unique perspectives, Tolerance of difference, Little or no prejudice, High Integrity, Attention to detail, Active and curious mind, Trustworthy, Reliable, Strong ethical code, Persistence, Precision, Perseverance, Conscientious, Diligent, Intelligence, Methodical, Loyal.
Autism Works' goal by employing people with an ASC is to positively action towards those with the condition, putting the positive traits first, to ensure that potential strengths, skills and good qualities don't go to waste.
- Provide people with Autism Spectrum Condition or Aspergers Syndrome with employment to use their unique skills
- Provide the public and private sectors with new skills
- Prove that people with ASC can take an equal and active part in society
- Compete at market terms, create profit and establish operations across the UK and internationally
- Provide an exceptional service to our clients that reduces costs and brings innovation
- Operate a company which is innovative, creative, supportive, happy and fun!
Doing things differently!
To achieve our goals we firmly believe that our company needs to operate as openly and transparently as possible. We welcome feedback from the IT industry, public services and of course the autism community. Feedback is essential since we don't have all the answers and we know that there are many hurdles facing us as we develop our company to become self-sufficient by 2014. To this end Chris Mitchell is documenting his own personal experience through his blog and the company is publishing it's journey through this site and via Facebook and Twitter.
We are fortunate to have at our disposal twenty years of experience built by ESPA in delivering a wide range of services for those with autism and Asperger's Syndrome. From Education, Residential, Assessment, Support and many services in between, the latest service is sustainable employment. At the very heart of ESPA's goals is the individual, everything ESPA staff do is geared to supporting people with ASC, while being dedicated to the individuals care.
The Autism Works goal is simple. We're are a company that makes the best use of the skills of the staff, so that we can provide services that are exceptional and rewarding for everyone. In addition, we provide autism awareness training to the companies and organisations that we work with. Finally we are lifting people away from the so called benefts trap and making a real contribution to society both in terms of wealth generation but also in innovation and creativity.
If you having any thoughts that you'd like us to then feel free to drop us an email or post a comment on our Facebook Page.