Saturday, April 2nd, marks World Autism Day to raise awareness about Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The not-for-profit organization Autism Ontario defines ASD as “a lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder that affects how a person communicates and relates to people and the world around them.”
Individuals with autism may have affected body language and posture, social interactions and relationships, and sensory processing capacities. Autism is often considered an invisible disability because you cannot simply “see” autism. There is not a list of characteristics that define everyone with autism, and each person on the autism spectrum is unique and wonderful.
Autism and ASD are considered examples of neurodiversity. According to the Autism Awareness Centre Inc., “Neurodiversity is the concept that humans don’t come in a one-size-fits-all neurologically “normal” package”. Neurodiversity also includes those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and other learning disabilities. An organization thrives when it brings together a diverse group of people who bring unique perspectives, ideas, and talents to the table. With the complexity and diversity of the world today, we cannot achieve success by all working in the same way and approaching problems from the same mindset. We need diversity, and neurodiversity in particular.
According to the Canadian Medical Association, approximately 1-2% of the Canadian population is on the autism spectrum. Much of the discussion around autism tends to focus on children and the support they need in their homes and educational settings.
However, an individual does not outgrow autism, so it is important to consider the needs of autistic adults too, and this includes meaningful employment. Autistic children grow up to be autistic adults – those needs and accommodations don’t simply disappear in adulthood. Up to 85% of adults with ASD are unemployed or underemployed.
Ricoh Canada is committed to fostering a work environment that respects individuals and their unique needs, so everyone feels a sense of inclusion and belonging. It is deeply rooted in our values and founding principles of The Spirit of Three Loves, “Love your neighbour, love your country, and love your work”. An important element of finding fulfillment from your job is about feeling comfortable bringing your whole self to work – feeling valued, understood, and accepted for who you are is paramount.
As we raise awareness about Autism and other forms of neurodiversity, we create a conversation in the workplace on these topics. Workplace practices and policies can make a difference to those with autism or caregivers of those with autism. Without these meaningful conversations, change would not be possible.
For parents with children with autism, flexible and hybrid work arrangements help these team members manage more parent-teacher interactions or specialist appointments. Paid time off programs also helps cover unexpected requirements for time away from work.
For team members with autism, flexible and hybrid work arrangements are also helpful. Adaptive technology such as noise-canceling headphones or customized workspaces to reduce distractions and aid in reducing overstimulation for those with sensory issues.
Trust is a cornerstone of creating this environment for all. The relationship a manager has with each person on their team lays the foundation for the success of each person with autism or parent of a child with autism.
There is still a stigma around neurodiversity, namely because each neurodiverse individual and their experience is unique and may be misunderstood. Parents of neurodiverse children have the same experience. Unless leaders in an organization make an effort to learn more about neurodiversity, they will have difficulty understanding how simple accommodations can make a world of difference.
This World Autism Awareness Day marks a day to learn and grow together. By being aware and compassionate, we can Change. For Better.
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