With autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) on the rise, it’s safe to say the coming years will see greater numbers of the ASD population pouring into the workplace.
The idea of employing people on the spectrum is a cause of no small concern to some of their would-be bosses. And members of the ASD community who are lucky enough to get hired are often let go.
I could spout off various ways employers can and should work with the professional difficulties of an autism spectrum diagnosis. But any employer reading this post may well ask: “Why is it worth my while to do so?”
Here are just a few of the assets an employee on the spectrum brings to the workplace:
Put together intense focus and a strong sense of ethics and obligation, and you have trademark autistic dedication.
ASD folks are among the most loyal, committed, and detail-oriented employees in the workforce. They are serious about doing the job right, and are always willing to learn new things.
People on the spectrum are known to struggle with social skills. But a happy consequence of this is a decreased likelihood of getting mixed up in drama.
We’re all adults, but let’s face it: Workplace drama does happen. And often it stems from one person misconstruing the words or actions of another.
But unlike most people, a person on the autism spectrum will very rarely look beyond the surface quality of any given statement or action.
With him/her on board, overall drama will be weaker, and the opportunity for productivity greater.
Social IQ and certain so-called “commonsense” matters come less naturally to people on the autism spectrum than to others. But the ASD brain, thereby freed up in terms of energy and focus, can go places that most others cannot.
A parent once told me about a time he was assisting his young “Aspie” son with math homework. In working out a given problem, the latter came to the right answer by a simpler and more creative formula than the one prescribed by mainstream pedagogy.
Can this transfer into the workplace? Well, think of individuals like Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, and Temple Grandin, all of whom the autism spectrum community claim as their own.
So there you have it. Yes, more ASD folks are coming into the workforce. But maybe this isn’t so scary after all. Perhaps it’s time for employers in all fields of endeavor to shift focus from the risks to the opportunities.
Check out my article “How (and How Not) to Work with Employees with Autism or Asperger Syndrome”, written for Autism Spectrum News in 2014 (it’s on page 30).
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