Are you surprised by the title of this post? Probably not. Every person has a unique set of strengths, and will excel in their job when the demands of the job match with their skill set. And when people excel at their jobs, employers benefit from increased performance and lower turnover, meaning lower costs for the employer. But what does this have to do with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)? Everything!
In our post two weeks ago, we focused on transitions and independence. Employment is a key part of achieving and maintaining independence for most people. Not only does having a job mean having income, but the right job provides a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment – and success breeds more success. Whether the job is in or out of the home, full time or part time, supported or totally independent, a good match between worker’s skills and job demands means the employee experiences success, and it can serve as a foundation to try new things and continuing growing as a person.
People with ASD have a variety of strengths that too often are overlooked as we focus on the challenges they face. As a result, many may be underemployed. But this can be changed, and large employers are recognizing the value of examining an individual’s strengths in the employment process. Some examples:
- Anyone who has flown since 9/11 is well aware of the security process at U.S. airports managed by the Transportation Security Agency (TSA). TSA officers check your ticket and identification to see if it is and valid; they look at our luggage via xray (and certainly my luggage is not always packed in great order) checking for weapons or other prohibited items; they sit somewhere monitoring the scans of people walking through those “x-ray” machines. At best, this work is repetitive; others might call it boring. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Minnesota found that people with autism are well-sited for some of these duties. You can read about it here.
- SAP, a huge German software company found that many people with ASD have strengths that can help in software quality assurance and testing, such as close attention to detail or ability to solve complex problems. After successfully recruiting and employing individuals with ASD in India and Ireland, they are expanding this program to the U.S. and other sites. Read about this here.
- Fast Company, which prides itself on inspiring “readers and users to think beyond traditional boundaries, lead conversations, and create the future of business” since 1995 recently published an article written by an entrepreneur who is also the mother of two adult children, one with ASD. Published as one of their “Leadership Now” articles, Ms. Pacelli provides a look at not only why employers should be hiring people with ASD, but how to help these (and other) employees succeed. As she says in her closing sentence, this “yields the business results that leaders need to not just survive, but thrive.” Ms. Pacelli’s article can be found here.
Russell J. Bonanno, M.Ed.
TAP Program Manager