National Autism Acceptance Week 2022

An individual on the Autism spectrum will often possess many outstanding qualities that make them valuable employees.   With this in mind, I hope that employers will recognise the contribution they make and that the number of individuals on the Autism spectrum in work will increase.    I’m therefore starting my blog by changing the focus from ‘acceptance’ of Autism to a celebration of it.

I feel it is important to discuss the world of work  in more depth. Of course, there always seems a constant push to get disabled people in general into work, perhaps without actually thinking about whether that this is just about statistics to ensure the Government or organisation in question have a good story to tell. To me, it is imperative that a person with Autism, of which only 22% of the adult population are estimated to be in employment, is in a job that suits their strengths.

So much is often focused on the elements of Autism which can may make life more challenging - but this is to me where employers just need to be open-minded and think about how the the working environment impacts the needs of every individual, not just employees who live with disability.    An individual on the Autism spectrum can use up a lot of energy just trying to fit into an environment that the average person wouldn’t have to think twice about.   Not only is this unnecessary if employers take a more open-minded approach, but it can also have a significant negative impact on mental health and wellbeing generally.

What more can employers do to understand how to welcome employees on the Autism spectrum into their workforce? Well, an Autistic individual is more likely than a neurotypical individual to be highly focused on their task at hand. Attention to detail is another key strength of theirs which is something I very much relate to; one small victory for a neurotypical employee could be one giant success for someone with Autism.

Of course the traits of Autism vary day to day and from individual to individual. What could affect someone on one day, may not affect them the next. That’s why it is very important that people understand that Autism is a spectrum condition. Just because certain films may put Autism under the microscope in some way and other series (Atypical being one) look at it a different way- it’s not right to take these things at face value. There are many people with Autism amongst us- and they are just waiting like many people… to be given the opportunity to thrive and make something great of their life.

What is often recognised as the “normal” way of doing things doesn’t always work for people with neurodiverse conditions such as Autism; in fact one person’s ‘normal’ may be entirely different to anothers.   I experience this first hand. People often talk to me about the normal world, and I was invited to discuss things in a safe mental health related context. What I said was that for too long, people with conditions such as Autism have been forced to divert their energy towards fitting into the world. But as I have experienced multiple times, we then become a square peg in a non-square hole and it becomes more irritating for us using up our energy to try to be like everyone else and conform to societal normalities surrounding social constructs.   What we need is for the world to recognise diversity more broadly and ensure it adapts to accommodate the needs of all.

I am personally incredibly proud to count people with Autism as friends. And I also fully support their way of doing things which can teach people a multitude of different things. People sometimes think of someone with Autism as being very much set in their own ways. But hey, if that works- who is anyone to criticise this success and let’s face it, this isn’t just something that is unique to Autism.

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