Autism Awareness Starts With You!
In many ways, mental illness is becoming more socially acceptable in recent years. The virulent spread of social media gives everyone a voice, and the internet means that there is a vast array of information and articles on just about every condition under the sun. All of this exposure is helping to normalize and destigmatize mental illness, as well as making more people take a look at their own mental health. However, there are some mental illnesses that still remain in the shadows, are misunderstood, and often miss- or undiagnosed, and autism is one of these.
The Autism Spectrum
One of the biggest challenges facing the normalization of autism in the workplace is the broad spectrum of symptoms and presentations that make up the condition. Unlike other mental illnesses which have a very specific set of behaviors and often set treatments (both medical and therapeutic), autistic individuals can fall anywhere on the spectrum which will impact the amount of support that they will need to be successful in the workforce. There is also currently no medical treatment for autism and no cure through therapy; autistic people are often required to work out survival strategies to help them cope in a world heavily biased towards neurotypical brains.
What Is Autism Awareness?
This is why autism awareness is essential across all sectors of society. Put simply, autism awareness is anything that you can do to help others understand the prevalence of the condition (currently 1 in 70 Canadians have been diagnosed somewhere on the autism spectrum) and ways in which you can make the world a more autism friendly employers place. These acts of autism awareness come in many different varieties:
Autism Awareness In The Workplace
One of the biggest places to make a difference about autism awareness is your workplace. It’s estimated that 80% of autistic adults in British Columbia are either unemployed or in work that doesn’t make use of their skills and qualifications (i.e. they are underemployed). By increasing the autistic working population, you can change public perception of their value to society. Some ways to improve autism awareness at work include:
Did you know that individuals on the spectrum have the highest unemployment and underemployment rates of any other demographic? Did you know that they are as diversified in their abilities and interests as any other demographic? Did you know that the median salary in Canada for an AS-employed individual is $2,900 a year? Yes, you read that right. Together we can change this picture. And who benefits: you do.
It can be hard to engage in some of these autism awareness workplace activities by yourself, which is why you should encourage your organization to team up with an autism employment support agency. Not only will they find qualified and talented autistic workers for your company, but they’ll also bring expertise and training for your company as you take the first steps towards making autism acceptable across Canada.