Article by Lakshmi Vijaykumar
Malathy diligently packs three different containers for her 24-year old son Ramki who works at a leading IT company in Bangalore. Ramki likes his 14-year old routine of cut fruit, a bowl of gluten-free rice and vegetables during the day. When Ramki was offered a three-month training on computer skills and an eventual job by the software company, Malathy’s apprehensions on Ramki’s employability were put to rest. Ramki has Asperger’s syndrome or Autism. He underwent a training cum assessment program on employability skills along with technical and operational skills at the IT company before he was hired by the firm.
Today, Ramki has a regular day job. His visual assimilation skills helped him find a job in visualizing problems in computers and network systems.
In another incident thousands of miles away from India, a young man living in Virginia posted an open letter to his “future employer” in LinkedIn with a simple message, “take a chance on me”. Soon the post received millions of views and went viral in the hiring circles.
A proclamation on the United Nation’s website estimates that more than 80% of adults with autism around the world are unemployed. Though there is no official data in India, but roughly 23 of every 10,000 children in India have autism, according to the first rigorous estimate of the country’s autism prevalence.
The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 in India has increased quotas for people with disability from 3 per cent to 4 per cent in government jobs and also facilitates the assimilation of people with ASD into the workforce.
For any autistic individual or with an Asperger’s syndrome, their poor social skills must be compensated with a specialized field. Just as Ramki’s core competencies were bought by the employer even while he fared low in his inter-personal skills. It is important for autistic individuals to build their professional portfolio strong enough to overshadow their social skills.
Inclusive leaders in India and globally have begun to demonstrate the value of participation of autistic employees for other to follow. HR experts are seeing the qualities that autistic people bring to the table such as attention to details, consistency, discipline and punctuality that make them great assets in organizations. Some of the individuals have exemplar memory and good rote memory but have not-so-good logical understanding. However, some of these common impairment must be converted into their strength. For someone like Ramki who is known for his predictability and set routines make him good for jobs like that inspection and trouble-shooting.
Intentional organizations are creating eco-systems that are inclusive of the needs of people under the autistic spectrum and tailoring their workplace and work style design to include neuro diversity. In order to get a job in the general community, people with autism must compete for positions, which do not require them to engage highly with co-workers.
The talent potential of people with autism will enable organizations amplify the cognitive diversity in their teams, key to better problem solving and innovation. The 2020 Avtar & Working Mother Media annual Best Companies for Women in India not only have practices to recognise neuro diversity, 40% of them also offer support for parents of autistic children, helping them access support groups and providing resource and referral.
As organizations open up to embrace neurodiversity, for individuals with ASD must also be prepared with their professional portfolio, while also developing a few social survival skills in order to make some allies at work!