April is Autism Awareness Month, and the theme in 2021 is “Inclusion in the Workplace.” While it is great to see this, it is now becoming time to focus on ‘acceptance’ rather than ‘awareness.’ It may surprise organizations that you likely already have autistic talent in your company, so it is important to understand the signs, features, and realities of autism.
A common misconception that people have is that autism is a disease that could impair a person from doing their job. The reality is that many autistic individuals have many different talents that are highly beneficial to an organization. Here are some stats throughout the years:
- In 2000, the prevalence rate for autism was 1 in 150
- In 2010, the prevalence rate for autism was 1 in 125
- In 2020, the prevalence rate for autism was 1 in 54
That means around 5 million people in the United States are autistic, so you likely already have autistic colleagues whether you know it or not. It is important to understand, accept, and include neurodiverse individuals in the workplace.
The goal now is focused on autism acceptance rather than autism awareness. Awareness has an emphasis on urgency and fear. Awareness describes autism as a problem that needs to be solved. Awareness is based more on the stereotypes about autism. Acceptance focuses more on understanding.
Importance of employers recognizing and leveraging autism in the workplace
With the war for talent ongoing, the autistic population is an untapped talent pool and there is a significant business case for hiring neurodiverse talent. The software giant SAP has a 90% retention rate in their autism in the workforce program. And JPMorgan Chase have reported 50-90% productivity gains in their (more) neurodiverse teams.
Hiring neurodiverse talent is the future of talent management, and luckily you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Companies like Salesforce, IBM, and many other organizations have been running very successful neurodiversity programs.
Interested in a neurodiversity program for your company? Download Uptimize’s free eBook – Introduction to Neurodiversity at Work.
Neuroinclusive culture for employees
Neurodiversity is a fact for any workplace since all employees think differently. We know that there are multiple and overlapping neuroidentities such as autistic people or dyslexics who make up a significant demographic. The demographic, which can be as much as 1 in 5 people, have been historically poorly hired and included in the workplace.
Three common but untrue stereotypes are:
- Only men have autism – According to NCBI, the ratio of autism in men vs women is 4:1. While there is a higher proportion of men with autism than women, there are still many women who are on the spectrum
- The majority of autistic people are above-average intelligence – Every person on the autism spectrum has a different way of learning and processing information so it is difficult to conclude that there is a majority or minority.
- Autistic people can’t understand the emotions of others – similar to the previous stereotype, every person on the autism spectrum has a different way of understanding and processing the emotions of others. For some it might be a strength and for others it might be something that they struggle with.
Uptimize neurodiversity training focuses first on “universal design.” Essentially it focuses on what can a colleague, manager, HR person, or recruiter do that is helpful and inclusive for everybody in the workplace.
How to get involved with neurodiversity acceptance
As with anything, you need to start with small steps that can be implemented quite easily. Here are a couple of small things you can do to get involved:
- Commit to taking action that promotes acceptance and inclusion of neurodiversity in the workplace
- Use social media to share resources and stories that help increase global acceptance and understanding
- Advocate to help advance policies that positively affect the autism community
With the high prevalence of autism in the U.S, it becomes imperative to understand and promote the inclusion of neurodivergent employees in the workplace. Many organizations most likely have autistic employees whether they know it or not. With that being said, it is crucial to understand the features, traits, and preferences of this neuroidentity group.
And if you need more help with leveraging neurodiversity as a talent strategy, we recommend scheduling a call with Uptimize to explore neurodiversity training and hiring programs.