Diversity in Technology and IT

World Autism Awareness Week

About

World Autism Awareness Week is an internationally recognised week which will be starting on the 1st April – 7th April 2019. The week is centred around World Autism Awareness Day which is the 2nd April, but the National Autistic Society encourage the public to take part in the week surround it. During the full seven days, people across the UK will take part in activities to raise money and awareness for the National Autistic Society.

There are around 700,000 people in the UK that are on the autistic spectrum which is more than 1 in 100. If you are to include their families, then autism is a part of 2.8 million people’s daily lives. Autism doesn’t just affect children as they grow up to be autistic adults. The lack of support has caused one in three autistic adults to experience sever mental health difficulties and 70% have said that with more support they would feel less isolated.

How to get involved

Fundraise your way – you can sign up to a fundraising pack which is full of great ideas and resources to use to get involved in National Autism Awareness Week. You can do anything from a quiz night to baking!

Join the National Autistic Society on a Spectrum Night Walk – On Saturday the 6th of April 2019, the National Autistic Society will be hosting a night walk across London, Manchester, Glasgow, Cardiff and Belfast. Hundreds of people join them every year for Autism Awareness Week to help raise awareness for autistic people and their families.

Adapting the workplace for a neurodivergent workforce

Only 16% of autistic adults in the UK are in full time employment and only 32% are in some kind of paid work. 10% of those who are in paid employment are receiving employment support, whilst 53% say they want to be employed.

There are several benefits of hiring individuals with autism and creating a diverse team, but there are some changes in the workplace that should be implemented so individuals on the spectrum feel comfortable. It has been said that individuals on the spectrum can perform particularly well in roles that require attention to detail. Many roles in the tech sector require attention to detail and certain processes need to be completed a certain way in which individuals on the spectrum would thrive.

Some tech companies like SAP, EY and GCHQ are noticing a phenomenal skill set and are keen to start managing and bringing everyone on board to understand that people aren’t being difficult. By implementing training courses for your employees to attend, you can start to create a working environment where everyone can understand each other. Giving sessions on what it looks and feels like to be autistic can help colleagues to understand how exhausting it can be. Through their understating comes empathy and appreciation of what their autistic colleagues do and have to bring to the workforce.

To ensure that you have the right working environment for a neurodivergent workforce, you should try and make the adaptations:

  • Adjust the lights – By swapping office lights for desk lamps that mimic natural light can support individuals who are on the spectrum. Bright office lights can cause anxiousness and distraction and can affect people with autism.
  • Offer quiet office spaces – Having an open plan office can make people with autism feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable. Having a quiet area which isn’t next to music or a printer can make an induvial with autism feel more comfortable and less distracted which is key for high performance.
  • Always help with personal organisation and development – for those who struggle with concentration and organisation giving your employees post it notes, a whiteboard or extra filing can help them to improve those skills. In the long run it will help with personal development, performance and achievement.