Autistic People Succeeding in the Workplace

Click here to watch on the Guardian's site.

Amelia Hill has written for The Guardian one of the smartest and most hopeful stories about autistic adults in the workplace that I have ever read. One of her chief subjects is Jonathan Young, who is a business analyst at Goldman Sachs:

"When I arrived, this role was a part-time job but I built it up into a key, full-time post and made it my own," he said. "Autism doesn't hold me back because I have had the correct support from a young age. It's key to have that support, both in education and in the workplace, but I don't require anything complicated: people just have to understand that I'm different."

For all his confidence, Young admits that he considers himself fortunate. "I never lose sight of the fact that I'm lucky to have a job that allows me to use all my intelligence and stretch my potential," he said.

Hill shows us a broader range of autistic workers than we often see i stories like this, talking about women (librarian Penny Andrews is the subject of the above video) and people who need assistive technology to speak:

William Thanh has such severe autism that he can only communicate through his iPad. But his work at the Paul bakery in London is of such high quality that the manager, Salina Gani, is keen to increase his hours.

"When we decided to take on three young people with autism last year, we thought there would be limits to what they could achieve," said Gani. "But these young men have shown us that we shouldn't assume anything on the basis of their autism alone. Yes, they need work that's repetitive and structured, but much of the service industry is like that anyway. We would gladly take them on full-time and increase the numbers of people with autism working for us across all our outlets."


Autism News: Prevention Debunked, Friendly Shows, Braxton and Son, Jobs for Breakast, and the Power of Fun

Emily Willingham explains the bad science behind a recent article that asked "Can autism be prevented?"

More theaters are planning autism-friendly performances. The Theater Development Fund is planning one for the  Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. The Fox Theater in Detroit will present Sesame Street Live.

Toni Braxton's autistic son Deizel will appear with her in a new Lifetime movie called Twist of Fate.

After his 19-year-old son Joe killed himself, Macolm Shaw is calling for more support for adults who have Asperger's syndrome.

Disability Scoop:

Kids with autism are five times more likely than other children to experience food-related problems ranging from mealtime tantrums to extreme pickiness, issues with potentially long-term health consequences, researchers say.


Tracey Hyde is struggling to find an appropriate placement for her eight-year-old autistic son Mickey.

The National Autistic Society Undiscovered Workforce campaign includes a breakfast event to bring employers and autistic adults together.

Remembering Dave Rabb, who helped autistic kids and their parents with "the power of fun."


Autistic Success: Winning Contests, Making Art, Graduating from College, and Finding Work

While the world speculates about terrible things done by someone who may or may not have had Asperger's syndrome, let's take a few minutes to celebrate wonderful things being done by real, actual autistic people:

Gabriel Harris, age 11, won an audition to appear in the Jeopardy kids tournament.

Breanna Bogucki won the Special Talents America contest by singing a Taylor Swift song.

Stephanie Slagle has been selected for Florida's middle school All-State chorus.

Giizhik Klawiter creates holiday cards that make money for autism research.

Andrew Raymond and Lucy Berrington discussed "The End of Aspergers" on HuffPost Live.

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network published its first anthology, Loud Hands, edited by Julia Bascom.

Aston-Martin Avery has been named "Pride of Essex" for his inspiring performances.

Mikhaela Ackerman is in her senior year at High Point University and preparing to on to law school.

Michael Ogden and Thomas Bromyard have earned their bachelor's degrees.

John Linder and Tim Welsh work in the studio of artist Gary Rosenthal.

Aaron Winston is working as a video game designer.


Giving Customers Great Food and Autistic People a Chance

Lee & Marie's Cakery opened yesterday in Miami, offering fresh pastry from locally produced ingredients and a refreshing perspecive on the work abilities of autistic people

Andy Travaglia says:

“We’re using [the store] as a prototype not just for us but for other companies... An Autistic employee is going to be nothing but a benefit to everybody, not just themselves.”

Her partner, pastry chef Yannis Janssens, has been impressed by what their autistic workers can do:

Chef Janssens said that when he met with adults across the Autism spectrum, he was shocked by their proficiency in learning technical skills in pastry, such as creating decorative pieces from gumpaste, fondant, chocolate, even butter. What was once a weakness -- being hyper-focused on one activity -- was translated into a strength in the kitchen. Also, the Autistic hires are paired with one of the Four Seasons trained staff members for guidance and help. Depending on their comfort levels, the employees can greet customers, bring food to tables or work behind the scenes.


Is It Okay to Pay Autistic People Less?

Kristina Chew considers the implications of an article from Business Week about Square One, an innovative new company that plans to create jobs for autistic people testing software, then pay them less than neurotypical workers. 

From the original piece:

A lot of software testing is done overseas by workers in India. The case Hahn makes is that his software testers will work for $15 to $20 an hour—pay comparable to, or even lower than, that of software testers in India, but right here in the U.S. After all, he points out, people with autism don’t have a lot of alternatives—when they do find work, it’s usually bagging groceries or sweeping hospital floors at the minimum wage.

Hahn, in other words, is proposing outsourcing to the developmentally disabled rather than the developing world. Asked whether it might be exploitative to pay people with a disability less than those without one for doing the same work, he says he doesn’t see it that way. For one thing, he says, Indian software testers aren’t exactly sweatshop labor; they make about $25 an hour. And if paying less makes the company able to hire the developmentally disabled in the first place, he doesn’t see a problem with it.

“I haven’t had one parent of an autistic child come to me and say this isn’t going to work,” he says. “They say, ‘This is a way for my child to make more money than they would have made otherwise, and allow them to be more independent.’ They worry, what is my child going to do when I’m gone? And this is kind of a way out.”

From Kristina:

But Square One faces a looming civil rights issue that could undermine the company’s aims. $15 to $25 is of course more than the minimum wage but, however “ASD-friendly” an environment that Square One offers, proposing to pay autistic employees at such rates — as cheaper labor — suggests that the company views such individuals’ work, and even such individuals themselves, as worth less.


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