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Questions with different answers

I was asked today, and I have been asked other times - What are the characteristics of autistic people that lead to having a negative impact on the labour market?


I understand the question and why it keeps being asked. But my answer is more and more: 1) the question needs to be reformulated; 2) the question should be: what are the variables that better explain the difficulty of access and maintenance of autistic people in the labour market; 3) it is necessary to verify the difficulties faced by organisations, managers, workers and recruitment and selection companies, most of whom are not autistic and need to be sensitised, informed and helped to understand what autism is.


If I assume that it is the characteristics of a certain group of people that make it difficult for them to enter and remain in the labour market, I will try to look at them as someone to be empowered. And this dynamic does not only happen with autism. I can give another example - bullying. For a long time the intervention was almost exclusively made with the victim and the aggressor. Very often forgetting that most of the people involved in this process, the bystanders, were not being involved. Furthermore, it has become possible, through restorative mediation, to help the victim and the offender to deal with what happened. In other words, instead of a retributive justice we now have a restorative justice.


In the labour market and how it looks at autistic people, a similar system needs to be adopted. We need to make it possible for autistic people themselves to be involved and close to the business world to help them understand what it is and what hiring an autistic person represents. This person is not only an asset, as it is sometimes pretended. It is an adult person with the will and the right to work. The autistic person is not more or less than any other person. He/she is a person who has a certain certification to be able to apply for a certain job offer. There will certainly be autistic people more capable for certain jobs, as well as non-autistic people. To perpetuate this belief of some superpower, although understandable, is itself a mechanism to perpetuate the stereotype itself.


Is it necessary to make adjustments or adaptations in the workplace? Yes, it is necessary. Just as it is when you implement a new work process on an industrial ship. Or when you want to improve the workers' condition to obtain a greater satisfaction with the work performance. Adaptations and adjustments that may be considered for autistic people are not so different from those that other non-autistic people may benefit from. For instance, having a written working procedure complemented by visual clues may facilitate the performance of any set of activities. Or, being able to wear noise-cancelling headphones can help to improve well-being due to noise exposure in the workplace.


There are many examples and it is possible to demonstrate that these will benefit everyone in the organisation, including the organisation itself and its financial results.


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