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Sunday, September 2, 2018

Looking for Rain Man

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the employment of adults with autism and other disabilitiesMany posts have discussed programs to provide them with training and experience.

Simon M. Bury and colleagues have a letter in Autism titled  "If you’ve employed one person with
autism …: An individual difference approach to the autism advantage at work."  The abstract:
In this letter to the editor, we comment on the ‘autism advantage’ – the idea that superior skills associated with autism (e.g. attention to detail) present a talent in employment – an example of which is a recent discussion by Austin and Pisano. We welcome advocacy that raises awareness around the strengths and capabilities of people with autism, and also the need to reform human resource management processes that disadvantage them. However, we are concerned that, by highlighting certain stereotypes (e.g. the ‘talented nerd lacking social graces’), the heterogeneity of autism may be overlooked and support needs downplayed. Furthermore, not appreciating individual differences might result in a misalignment between work-profile and employment, pressure to outperform peers without autism and a failure to appreciate the diverse interests of people with autism. We argue that an individual differences approach will prove more sustainable for improving long-term employment outcomes.
From the letter:
We acknowledge that there are areas in which individuals with autism perform exceptionally and appreciate the importance of identifying their strengths and supporting them appropriately. However, it is also important to remind ourselves that not all  ndividuals with autism have superior skills, nor should they have to, to secure employment. The ‘autism advantage’ may prove a double-edged sword; while, it is beneficial in raising awareness, it also has the potential to place unreasonable expectations on average John (or Jane for that matter!). Supporting John, and the individuals who make up his composite, by supporting his uniqueness, including both his strengths and support needs, may prove to be the most sustainable approach to employment in the long term