It's World Autism Awareness Day and I've come across a startling fact on the United Nations website. They estimate 80% of adults with ASD are unemployed across the world. The National Autistic Society (NAS) website states that only 15% of ASD adults are employed in the UK. This does not make a bright future for our ASD children if things continue this way.
Employers are missing out on an excellent workforce who will pay attention to detail, have logical reasoning, be punctual amongst many other superb qualities. Unfortunately, the social communication barrier and difficulties with adapting to change between ‘neurotypical’ and ASD adults means there is often a lack of support in the workplace for ASD employees. They may also falter at the recruitment stage, as often an ASD person sees things in black and white, so will literally interpret a job advert. If they can’t read between the lines, they may not realise that they are capable of doing the job and so will not apply for the position. During an interview, an ASD candidate may struggle to answer questions if they are open ended, as they won’t understand what is expected of them. They may avoid eye contact, which some people may construe as an applicant being rude and they may not be able to interpret body language. The NAS website has an excellent handout for employers on how to adapt the recruitment process and to manage ASD employees on a daily basis and is something that all employers would benefit from reading, as well as schools/places for higher education, so that they can help to prepare our children for the path of employment.
Education is the key to the development of our future workforce. Maybe it's time our children were taught about autism at school. From personal experience of our three children, I am not aware that the subject of autism is touched on in the classroom. It is unfortunate that World Autism Awareness Day generally falls in the Easter Holidays and so schools don’t often highlight the day by fundraising or awareness.
Our daughter has been in a class with another boy who has autism for the past 3 years. Neither of them were aware that the other one had ASD. They are both at differing ends of the spectrum and accept one another for who they are, rather than questioning what others may describe as quirky, eccentric or rude to name a few descriptors, which our daughter has been called in class. If all children were made aware of invisible disabilities they would learn to embrace everyone for whom they are rather than stereotyping them, which then continues into how people perceive others in adulthood.
Our ASD children are intelligent individuals who deserve to do as well as everyone else in their generation. They have the determination to succeed, but need the world to accept them for who they are. Adapting the workplace to suit their requirements is no different from schools adjusting the classroom and how they work in it, to meet their needs.
As a family we do not see autism as a disability. Instead it is a gift – our two ASD children may see the world in a different way from our ‘neurotypical’ son, but it doesn’t make it the wrong way. By maximizing their strengths, they will all succeed in life and reach their true potential. We can’t ask for anymore as parents.