In the run up to World Autism Awareness Day on 2 April, a diverse panel featuring an employer, an academic, an Autism at Work expert, and an autistic employee, gather to ask: how can workplaces adapt so as to offer greater opportunities to those with autism, and benefit themselves as a result?
In association with the Autism Employment Alliance (AEA)
Autism is a lifelong and highly complex condition that affects the way people think, communicate and form relationships. Around 1% of the population are estimated to be on the autistic spectrum, which includes Asperger’s Syndrome. Much of the attention in autism research and activism centres on the causes of autism, and on supporting children and young adults through education. But very little looks at how autistic people can lead happy and successful lives as adults, particularly at work.
Autistic people have a huge amount to offer employers. Indeed, some researchers, pioneering firms, social enterprises and charities have begun to realise that there are specific qualities that many autistic people have that are not shared by the rest of the population. Examples include an uncanny attention to detail, an unconventional way of thinking, and the ability to handle vast amounts of information.
Yet only around 15% of people on the spectrum have a full time job, far fewer than those with other disabilities (c.40%). The result is a lifetime of chronic unemployment and lack of independence, which has severe costs for individuals, families and organisations.
The crucial question is: how can we adapt the world of work to harness the talents of people with autism?
In the run up to World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, and in association with the Autism Employment Alliance, will be debated by Professor Francesca Happe, world-renowned expert in the perceptual and cognitive strengths of people with autism, Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College; David Nicholson, autistic advocate; Lex van Dam, hedge fund manager and leading financial educator; and Stefanie Lawitzke, project manager for the Autism at Work programme for SAP Germany.
Chair: Carol Povey is the director of the Centre for Autism, National Autistic Society.
The Autism Employment Alliance (AEA) is a coalition of autistic people, charities (e.g. National Autistic Society, RSA, Mental Health Foundation), employers (e.g. Specialisterne, SAP Global) and academic researchers (e.g. CRAE - Institute of Education, Goldsmiths) committed to improving the employment prospects of autistic people.