It’s World Autism Awareness Week, an internationally celebrated event that aims to increase understanding and awareness about people with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) including autism and Asperger syndrome.
One in one hundred people are on the autism spectrum and there are around 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK, so chances are you will encounter a colleague with ASD at some point in your career. While all autistic people can relate to similar difficulties, being autistic affects them in different ways. People with Asperger syndrome, for instance, see, hear and feel the world differently to other people.
Experiencing the world in a different way can bring something unique and brilliant to every aspect of life, including your workplace.
While it’s a myth that all people with ASD are all mathematical geniuses, there are a high number that excel in an IT environment. When it comes to technology usage and computer coding, many developers share some of the traits associated with Asperger’s Syndrome – such as intense and obsessive level of focus and feeling more comfortable dealing with machines than social interactions with people.
Someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder once said that they hadn’t seen many articles or blogs written by those with ASD when searching for resources, and felt the voices of people who are diagnosed with this condition are vastly underrepresented. So, while we can easily cite research and academic papers for claims that people with ASD have so much to offer employers, we thought we’d leave it to our own subject matter expert to share their own experience.
Last year, Beeks kicked off a project to elevate the look and feel of our website and appointed the team at Webbed Feet, an awesome web development agency, to get the job done.
We worked closely with Andy Payne, one heck of a talented web developer at the agency, to bring the Beeks online vision to life. Here, he shares his own journey on how he has overcome and thrived against the challenges of working in the tech industry with autism.
“On the face of it my transition from education into work was plain sailing”, explains Andy, “and the truth of it is, I was served a big dollop of luck… I got a job within a year and have been employed by the same company ever since.
Now, as I enter my thirteenth year as a web developer at Webbed Feet, I feel very grateful to have found a role that not only suits my natural strengths for problem solving and logic, but with an employer that understands my abilities and challenges. Others are not so fortunate – only 1 in 5 autistic adults like me is in any form of employment.
Aaron and Alex started Webbed Feet in 2001. I already knew Aaron and, at the same time I had begun learning web-based programming in 2007, they were in a position to take someone new, so the fit was perfect and I became their first employee. No formal interview, and a previous understanding of my autism and how I am.
Things were put in place from the outset to make my work life as comfortable as possible, such as home working and no phone calls to clients. And, being the first employee, I have been able to grow with the company as we now look to welcome our eighth team member ‘into the office’ (well, once Covid allows!).
I was extremely lucky, others are not. While not all autistic people can work, many want to and with some basic support and understanding, autistic people like me have so much to offer employers. They often excel in certain areas such as IT and coding, are great problem solvers, show high levels of concentration and actually like to stick to timetables and routines.
Despite this, autism seems to have one of the highest unemployment rates out of all disabilities. I suspect a big reason behind this is because it is a ‘hidden’ disability. Rightly, a lot of emphasis is put into making buildings, public spaces and offices accessible to people with physical disabilities. I think it’s quite natural that people can empathise with the physical challenges imposed by certain disabilities, most of which are outwardly visible for others to see.
You cannot see autism, though. Many of the challenges autistic people face are not obvious to others and can often be nuance in nature. Because of the disability, they can often find it difficult to communicate these challenges to others, too.
So, what can employers do to make themselves more autism friendly?
Everyone with autism is different. I don’t believe there is a one size fits all, but there are common traits. The National Autistic Society has some excellent advice for employers, as well as the advantages of employing people with autism.
The advice and guidance from the NAS cover how to make your recruitment process autism friendly, as well as ensure autistic employees are properly supported in work. If employers followed this advice, and provided the same support and opportunity Webbed Feet did for me, they would open themselves up to the massive benefits autistic people can bring to their business or organisation!”
You can make a donation to the National Autistic Society here
A little bit about Webbed Feet…
Webbed Feet are a Salisbury-based award-winning web design and development agency and have been producing beautiful bespoke websites since 2001. Our dedicated team have produced hundreds of websites for satisfied clients worldwide since we were established in Salisbury back in 2001. We are a creative web development agency using the latest techniques to create the most effective websites.
To put it simply; we create websites that work.