For #WorldAutismDay, don’t forget autistic young adults trying to enter the workforce.
Today is #WorldAutismDay. And, while awareness is always good, World Autism Day shares some of the same problems as #RacefortheCure. The #KomenFoundation focuses exclusively on women whose cancer can be cured. It leaves out the thousands of women with #metastatic breast cancer who are focused on living with cancer rather than finding a cure. There are a whole lot of women who hate October for that reason, and there is a growing group of people who feel the same way about autism “awareness.” Most campaigns focus on children; I’ve seen very little about the autistic young adults trying to enter the workforce.
Like metastatic breast cancer, autism can’t be cured. But that’s OK. While my son is on the very mild end of the spectrum, he doesn’t want to be “fixed.” When we talked about it, he said he wouldn’t want to be cured…that autism is so much a part of who he is that a cure would mean excising a part of himself. He doesn’t need pity, and he doesn’t need awareness devoid of action.
What he needs is employers who not only understand #autism but who are willing to change their perception of the ideal employee, both in hiring and in daily work. My son doesn’t understand, for instance, that, when someone says, “Hey, do you want to help me with this?”, that the person isn’t really *asking* — they’re nicely telling him to. He has no patience for busy work. And if he thinks there’s a better way to do things, he’ll say so without worrying about his place in the company hierarchy. He’d flat out tell the CEO, “That’s a stupid way to do this.” (And since he already outsmarted both his school district and a national curriculum provider, he’d probably be right.)
If he doesn’t get fired for breaking social rules he doesn’t understand, he’ll kick ass when it comes to doing the work
So, for Autism Awareness day, please don’t just think, “OK, I’m aware.” Give some thought to the autistic young adults trying to enter the workforce. If you’re in a position to shape hiring and management processes, please think about how you can accommodate someone who can do the job but can’t play the game. They could turn out to be the best employees you’ve ever hired.