At Work, With Autism
By Laura Cassar, Crain Content Studio Detroit First published in Crain’s Detroit Business
A BUSINESS SOLUTION
- 1 in 68 individuals have an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis.
- 50 percent of individuals with autism have normal or above-average intelligence; 12 percent fall in the extremely high IQ range, exceeding the proportion of the typical population.
- The mandated federal diversity hiring objective for disability is 7 percent for federal contractors.
- Employers receive a $2,400 direct federal tax credit per individual with a disability hired.
- Companies typically spend $3,500 to fill an empty position. AAoM’s retention rate is over 96 percent.
- 87 percent of Americans say they prefer to give their business to companies that hire individuals with autism, and 92 percent of Americans view companies hiring individuals with autism and related disabilities more favorably than those that do not.
TAPPING INTO UNIQUE TALENTS
Individuals with autism are hired to work in various industries and roles including:
- Information technology
- Business offices
Imagine your job is to tell how many fingers a co-worker is holding up. The fingers change in random order; you need to say out loud how many there are.
Seems simple enough. Now imagine this: air is blasting on the back of your neck and another co-worker occasionally shoves you from behind. Someone waves a strobe light in front of the hand that’s holding up the fingers. And two more co-workers read in your ears: They each read aloud different books at the same time. Now how many fingers is your co-worker holding up? This is a scene that Josh Stokes, a 26-year-old individual with autism, recently put to a role-play test at an employer training event led by the Autism Alliance of Michigan. The role-play and event was designed to illustrate some of the workplace challenges – and unique benefits – of individuals with autism. Founded in 2009 by Dave Meador of DTE Energy and Steve D’Arcy of PricewaterhouseCoopers, AAoM works to improve the quality of life for individuals with autism through education, access to comprehensive services, community awareness, inclusion efforts and coordinated advocacy. Within that mission is its growing push to impact the state’s unemployment rate and talent gap with an untapped workforce: those with autism. Between 75 and 90 percent of adults with autism are unemployed. “Frequently we hear from businesses that they cannot find reliable employees. We have a talent pool of hundreds of individuals that, by clinical definition, have normal to high intelligence, arrive at work on time, complete tasks efficiently and with attention to detail,” said Colleen Allen, AAoM’s president and CEO. These individuals “present a business solution with potential of a high return on investment.”