The Autism Society of Minnesota recently hosted an "Autism and
Employment" conference in which managers from 3M, Cargill and Best Buy took
to the stage in praise of their employees with autism, counting them "among
their very best."
With a looming shortage of workers due to the retirement of baby boomers, more companies are finding it advantageous to make accommodations in the workplace for their employees with ASD. In turn, those employees are becoming known for their extreme focus, ingenuity and dedication in the artistic and technological fields to which they are innately drawn. Their love of routines and specialized interests become assets when applied to the workplace environment.
At the conference, Temple Grandin, celebrity author and autism spokesperson, was on-hand to share her wealth of experience, even offering some advice to job seekers with autism. Since reading social cues is difficult, she recommended presenting a portfolio or examples of one’s work as the best course of action during the interview process. "I never got a job based upon my personality," she quipped.
Grandin also exhorted parents to help their kids build skills well before they would be entering the job market, such as having them order their own food at restaurants, purchasing their own items at stores or having them run their own small businesses such as mowing neighborhood lawns.
Fostering independence for children with autism is creating a promising trend of doors being opened that were once closed. The intersection of employer need and autism enlightenment is heartening news and will have a ripple-effect throughout our society. For example, a parent with a co-worker on the autism spectrum will be less likely to object to their child having a classmate with autism. And since children mirror their parents’ attitudes, bullying at school will be also diminished as well.
Another myth currently being dispelled about individuals with autism involves their inability to sustain meaningful marital relationships.
Autism expert Tony Attwood has laid this falsehood to rest by quoting studies on the attitudes towards marriage. Asking what marriage meant to them, neurotypical individuals typically responded with "being in love," while those with autism consistently cited the elements of having a lifelong friend and helpmate. Many marriages come undone when one or the other spouse falls out of love or becomes bored. People with autism, whose core values in a mate are an abiding friendship and routines, are actually much better suited for the lifelong commitments of marriage than their neurotypical counterparts.
Dr. Attwood believes that people with autism are the forerunners of a higher evolution and that it is incumbent upon the rest of us to realize this fact. Their burgeoning and continuing success, both professionally and personally, bears out this wisdom.
And as our society continues to embrace the widespread acceptance of those with autism, we will continue to see shattered stereotypes and misconceptions laid to rest, as is currently taking place in the areas of employment and marriage.