When I talk to parents with children who have autism, they often reveal their worries about the future. After the initial diagnosis and navigating the school years, they look to the future with trepidation not knowing what lies ahead in the "real" world for their children. Will they be able to find jobs? Will they be able to support themselves? So one big company's move to recruit autistic workers is incredibly welcome.
According to ABC, German software company SAP, which has more than 65,000 employees worldwide, plans to hire people with autism as software testers, programmers, and data quality assurance specialists. The company says it sees a "potential competitive advantage to leveraging the unique talents of people with autism, while also helping them to secure meaningful employment."
In a statement, SAP executive board member Luisa Delgado said they, along with Speialisterne, a company they're partnering with for recruitment efforts, believe "innovation comes from the 'edges.'" She stated: "Only by employing people who think differently and spark innovation will SAP be prepared to handle the challenges of the 21st century."
What an incredible way of thinking. Instead of focusing on what people with autism can't do, we should be embracing their strengths like this. With so many people -- as many as 1 in 50 according to some reports -- somewhere on the autism scale, companies who don't embrace people with the disorder are losing out on a talented pool of employees.
The company said one of the big barriers it will eliminate for people with autism is the interview process, which requires communication skills that are often challenging for people with autism. Having someone in the middle to facilitate the process could prove helpful.
A pilot program that took place in India was a great success, and SAP says it helped improve the morale and team culture. Anka Wittenberg, SAP's chief diversity and inclusion officer, said, "Autistic people don't understand sarcasm and they always speak the truth. Well, really everybody likes that."
Of course, autism affects everyone differently, and for some on the spectrum, such jobs may not be possible. But in general it's great to see a major company looking at the unique strengths many in this population possess and embracing them. May many more follow in their footsteps.
What do you think of this company's move to hire people with autism?
Image via brokinhrt2/Flickr
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