April is World Autism Month, with 2nd of April marking World Autism Awareness Day. It’s a time when different charities and organisations around the world take part in activities that raise awareness for autism. The goal is to make sure those with autism are given the right opportunities to reach their full potential.
The term autism encompasses a wide spectrum of neurodiversity, known as Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC). And there’s an estimated 31,000 people in the UK diagnosed with ASC, and a large number without diagnosis, too.
So, why should your business take part in Autism Awareness Day or Month?
If you don’t currently have an employee with autism, it’s possible that you may do in future. But also, it’s worth remembering that current employees may be a parent or carer of someone with autism, and they may need additional understanding when it comes to their job.
Consciously or not, there are barriers placed in the way of work for those with autism. At present, only 16% of autistic people are in full-time work, with the overall employment rate standing at 32% – that’s 2.5 times lower than the national average for non-disabled people.
As an employer, you should raise awareness of autism at work for everyone, but particularly for managers who may need to develop new skills and understanding if they work with an autistic person or carer.
While traits of autism differ from person to person, there are some common traits that you and your people should all be aware of, such as differences in communication and social interaction, sensory and perception difficulties, and differences in thinking and planning, to name a few.
The more aware of differences your people are, the easier it will be to work alongside someone with autism without difficulty or miscommunication.
And whether you have an autistic employee or not, you should consider creating an autism policy for your workplace. If you do employ an autistic person or carer, ask for their input to help develop the policy to be realistic and useful.
Of course, there are other things you can do to raise awareness of autism this month. You could support an autism charity and encourage your employees to raise money for it, by wearing blue to work (the official colour of solidarity for those with autism), by talking about it on social media, or even by inviting a speaker to come into your place of work to teach your employees more about autism.
For any help or advice on dealing with diversity in your workplace, get in touch.