Analyst Corey Weiss, who was disgnosed with Autism as a young boy, works at Mindspark on August 24, 2016 in Santa Monica, California.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that one percent of the global population has autism spectrum disorder. And while events like Autism Awareness Month have raised the disorder’s profile, a Drexel University study found that about 40 percent of young adults with autism are unemployed. But some tech giants like SAP, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise are actively trying to hire employees with autism. In this hour, we’ll look how employers and employees can both benefit from closing the employment gap for those on the autistic spectrum.

Resources Mentioned on Air

Autism in the Workplace 21 April,2017Mina Kim

Guests:
Jose Velasco, head, SAP's Autism at Work program
Dave Kearon, Director of Adult Services, Autism Speaks
Stephen Shore, autism advocate, author and consultant; professor, Adelphi University

  • Kevin Skipper

    ………….
    ……………..
    ………..
    …………..

    -Skipper News Service. Now, more than ever, totally ‘on the spectrum.’

  • Kevin Skipper

    Is there a standardized way to determine a persons as ‘autistic’ as opposed to ‘different?’ I heard recently that one of the reasons for the ‘explosion’ in autism cases is correlated to the proliferation of new terminologies and definitions that are, in a sense, added onto to conflated with existing definitions. Some interpret this as an increase in the interest of discreet conditions, as opposed to an increase in incidence.

    Another question, in the guest’s opinion, in autism genetic, environmental, or both?

    Is there any data available on the incidence of autism among domestic populations and immigrant populations? Any racial or ethnic makers?

  • Bruce Satow

    Should other employees be informed about the autistic person? Isn’t that a privacy issue? If you don’t inform the co-workers, you can have some serious HR issues.

    • Another Mike

      You can train employees how to spot autistic people and how to deal with autistic people. We all have to learn that not everyone in the workplace thinks and acts as we do. I remember taking a class in “dealing with difficult people,” for example.

      • Jenny

        Except I wouldn’t categorize them as “difficult people.” They are no tougher to work with than other people. The only thing an employer would need to do would be to include some training – what they used to call (and may still call) sensitivity training. People can be equally unsure how to work with people in wheelchairs for instance, or with other physical disabilities. Autistic people are no different in being different. Kindness and giving people the benefit of the doubt goes a long, long way.

        • Another Mike

          Training, goodwill, willingness to bridge the gap are all necessary. I think the hard part is realizing that these people are different, and that we must adapt our familiar communication and relationship style to them.

  • Another Mike

    We used to talk about the difference between “high tech” and “high touch.” Isn’t health care a “high touch” industry? Can autistic people be trained to chat, put patients and their families at ease, etc.?

  • geraldfnord

    As a person on the autism spectrum, most workplaces have always seemed to me to be more about the job—e.g. status and dominance signalling and contention—than about the nominal work.

    • William – SF

      On a spectrum or not, also my experience.

      • Reverend Lurlean Tucker

        Definitely. It’s more about politics that production. So much time and money are wasted on such posturing it’s incredible.

        • Another Mike

          I liked working for women because if one of their ideas didn’t work out, they would acknowledge that and try something else, where a male boss could well persist until the bitter end, because his ego was tied up with his idea.

      • Kevin Skipper

        On. Definitely on.

  • Bruce Satow

    I would be worried as a co-worker to work with autistic worker. If some unintentional incident happens, I don’t want to deal with a HR issue or get sued. What protections do non-autistic workers get?

    • Jenny

      Usually it’s the autistic people who need protections and get bullied, not the rest of us. And parents of autistics aren’t out to sue, the way you imply. You obviously have very little knowledge or experience with autistic people. And yes I know of what I speak – I have a son with autism. All you need to do is be kind and not err on the side of being judgmental.

  • Reverend Lurlean Tucker

    There are a lot of companies in the Bay Area who hire people on the autism spectrum — and then seriously marginalize them as “token” disabled employees. That gives them little room for advancement or growth, which they deserve as much as anyone else. Some people on the spectrum can develop passable soft skills with a lot of practice; others can’t. I can understand an employer not wanting an employee to have a meltdown at work, which sometimes happens to autistic people who experience stress, but they shouldn’t expect autistic individuals to mix and socialize with the same ease as the so-called neuro-typical population. We’ve taken the first steps in integrating autistic people into the work force, but we still have a long way to go. I haven’t found Autism Speaks to be helpful in this regard. Their prime focus seems to be to eliminate autism, not to secure its acceptance in society.

    • Jenny

      That is very true. There are far better organizations out there who help promote acceptance and integration of people on the spectrum. AS is definitely more focused on eradicating autism – which isn’t much help to those of us with kids who already have it.

  • Robert Thomas

    Journalists have lately made as to assuage their class antipathy from science and engineering – and from the language of mathematics shared among these pursuits – by assigning a degree of cognitive irregularity to other people, those who lack such antipathies.

    I recognize this sort of bias in myself. Having found myself once unexpectedly among a large group of Society for Creative Anachronism members and at another time just as surprisingly, immersed in a “prostate” of Civil War reenactors, I’ve found it difficult to free myself from the notion that theater majors represent a preponderance of persons who might be categorized as “on the spectrum”.

    • Kevin Skipper

      If actors aren’t on the spectrum to begin with, theater most certainly ensures that they get there.
      “Yes, and.”

    • William – SF

      And then again, it could be said that it isn’t always easy to understand others. I often sense my family, while offering unconditional love, wonders of which parents I belong.

    • Another Mike

      Those people are nerds, obsessed with getting the details right. Theater majors are “Look at me!” types.

  • Kevin Skipper

    With all due respect to the show and its guests, the central tenent of autism will not be addressed.

    “Science” knows very well that autism is simply a manifestation of the various consequences of a deliberately reduced gene pool and the environmental factors that exist to make such a social condition possible.

    There is no cure for it as it is a natural and known result of white supremacist eugenics campaigns.
    How many Syrians are autistic?
    Face it. Immigrants are carefully selected for their ability to save American and Western Europeans from their genotypical chickens that are not coming home to roost.

    My experience in healing and working with people who are ‘on the spectrum,’ I get a strong sense that, like ADD is connected to paternal genetics, autism is closely related to maternal heredity. Stress responses, anxiety and their physiological markers seem to be passed on both genetically, in utero infancy and early childhood.

    Nurture created nature and vice versa.

    Some of us know who autism refers to and precisely ‘whom’ conversations about jobs, employment and accessibility refer to.

    • Another Mike

      There are two theories I’ve heard. One is that the chance of autism is higher when both parents are really smart, that in the old days you would marry the girl or guy next door, but in the Valley that neighbor might be super smart. The other is that the chance is higher when the parents are older.

      • veggiegrrrl

        i live with one person with autism. so i know one. there is asperger’s on the fathers side and the mom was on drugs when she was pregnant.

        • Kevin Skipper

          I’ve heard about stress and trauma makers being a contributor as well. Reminds me of ‘Minority Report,’ both the P.K. Dick book and the Spielberg movie with consumate kook, Tommy Cruise. Suggests that governments subject populations to trauma in a mass experiment to hasten human evolution. Super compelling theme.

      • Kevin Skipper

        ‘Old parent’ and ‘smart parent’ are both surrogate terms for ‘White’ and usually, generationally affluent. Also euphemistically refers to ‘small gene pool.’

        Remember when congestive heart failure was called ‘The Rich Man’s Disease?’ Those were the days.

        • Jenny

          Being older means being of older maternal or paternal age. It does not equate to being white. And being of high intelligence has nothing to do with class or race. Yes, older parents definitely have a higher risk of having an autistic child. And that holds true whether they’re white, or any other race. Autism is prevalent across all racial groups. It’s only in the last few decades that they’ve developed better tests and are now able to better identify who is on the spectrum. A lot of countries are still behind in this regard – so it’s not that there aren’t autistic people in those countries, it’s just that they haven’t been diagnosed.

  • ellen

    I’m a mother of a 21 year old daughter on the high functioning side of the spectrum. She is a junior at UC getting a bachelors degree in Physics and who’s passion is art, music & the universe (hence the physics degree). Being in corporate America for 30+ years myself and, along with my husband, raising my daughter to be an independent person, what can I do (or not) to assist her and/or lead her in the appropriate direction to find the best job and the right company where she can be happy, excel and lead the way for others? On the one hand I want to help, but just like any young person going out into the world, help is often not wanted from a parent. Are there resources? Specific people she can contact? A counselor of sorts who can help her find a job that’s a “good fit”? Or, what specifically can she do to find a good fit where people understand her, etc.? And/or do I encourage her to get a Masters Degree, PhD, etc so it will open more doors for her with “hopes” that she will eventually find a good fit?

    • Another Mike

      Does your daughter want to marry and have children?
      My nephew got his BS in Physics at 22, his MS at 24, his PhD at 28. He did various postdocs around the world for the past 8 years, and now, at 36, has a tenure-track job. So, for the next six years, he will have to apply for research grants and recruit enough graduate students so that he has a chance of achieving tenure (typically 90% fail).

      Forty-two is not when women should start considering having children.

      • Kevin Skipper

        is you nephew a woman? As world-travelled researcher he’ll likely have his pick of many young women in search for a gainfully employed white american husband. Not sure whether or not he’s autistic but I doubt most women would care. Send him to Asia. They’ll see him as the quirky and quiet type. They can move to Berkeley and the whole family can claim both minority and privileged status.

        • Another Mike

          No, his bachelor life has been great. He’s in no hurry to marry and have children. But a woman that age would have her most fertile years behind her.

  • veggiegrrrl

    i missed this show. any link to an archived download? thanks!

    • Another Mike

      Come back later. I don’t know exactly when they post the link to the archived story, but it’s well within 24 hours.

Host

Mina Kim

Mina Kim is KQED News’ evening anchor and the Friday host of Forum. She reports on a wide range of issues affecting the Bay Area and interviews newsmakers, local leaders and innovators.

Mina started her career in public radio at KQED as an intern with Pacific Time. When the station began expanding its local news coverage in 2010, she became a general assignment reporter, then health reporter for The California Report. Mina’s award-winning stories have included on-the-scene reporting of the 2014 Napa earthquake and a series on gun violence in Oakland.

Her work has been recognized by the Radio Television Digital News Association, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Asian American Journalists Association.

Mina grew up in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Oak Park, CA. She lives in Napa.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor