The Defence Academy of the United Kingdom hosted a day on Neuro-Diversity. The focus of the day was around how to get some people with autism into cyber security. Certain types of autism are particularly suited to some types of cybersecurity roles. The day provided them with different challenges and opportunities to test themselves. It also gave prospective employers a look at what neuro-diversity means.
To many people, diversity means race, gender, skin colour or physical disability. This ignores a growing number of people who are diagnosed with autism. Autism is defined by the National Autistic Society as: “a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them.”
When you do mention autism to employers they are often unsure as to what it means in the workplace. What information they do have often comes from sources that seek to sensationalise some types of autism. This leaves them concerned that they would be unable to cope with an autistic person in their workplace. When they think about disability their focus is on how to adapt their workplace for disabled employees. Lifts, ramps, bathrooms and desks for people in wheelchairs or making the office safer and dog friendly for those who are partially or fully blind.
Developmental disabilities such as autism are hard to see, identify and therefore cause employers difficulty in managing. The NAS is running a campaign called “Too Much Information.” Using a virtual reality headset and earphones, it gives the user an opportunity to understand how it feels to have your senses overloaded. This is what happens to many people with autism. The NAS also provides advice on how to provide safe spaces and what to do when an employee is struggling.
During the event Enterprise Times talked to Emily Swiatek who works for the NAS about the challenges of autism and what employers need to understand. Emily gave us a great view into how we have to change the way we talk and engage with people with autism. She explained how often job descriptions and the interview process do not work for those with autism and how, with just a little effort, they can be improved.
Listen to what Emily told us and think about what your business could do in order to help its autistic employees.