Business needs to think differently in the tightest employment market ever seen.
auticon IT Consultant James Tingle first learned computer programming, and he taught himself to read at the age of four. He has some amazing talents, but he hasn’t completed high school and like so many autistic people he finds social interaction uneasy and difficult to comprehend.
James is not only autistic, but he has circadian rhythm sleep disorder and grapheme–colour synesthesia, where an individual’s perception of numerals and letters is associated with the experience of colours. To say that James thinks and sees the world differently to the rest of us is really an understatement, but these differences enable him to see patterns and find order in the world that most of us would simply never notice.
Professor in the Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge Simon Baron-Cohan once said, ”like any skill, systemising occurs on a bell curve in the population, with some people being faster at spotting patterns than others. Autistic people are often strong systemisers. Indeed, their attention is often described as ‘obsessive’ as they check and recheck the patterns of a system.”
James has some outstanding strengths and recognising patterns is definitely one of them. Using his memory and an association with numbers and colours he can recite pi to the sixtieth decimal place on cue, but this doesn’t earn you a place at university.
Not having completed high school he gained much of his formal education in IT through playing Call of Duty. A game design college ran a Call of Duty competition where players had the opportunity to win a single place in the organisation’s Diploma of Games Development course, that one person was James.
While this is an unconventional path to a career in software development, it is not unusual for people on the spectrum not to complete high school and look for different road into the workplace. The truth is most schools and workplaces are simply not set up for those on the spectrum. They are not set up for those that think differently, and this is one of the greatest losses for modern society.
Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show the unemployment rate for people with autism is over 34 per cent, more than three times the rate for people with a disability, and almost ten times the rate for people without.
As the current unemployment rate hits 3.5% and the job market is tighter than ever, it is really time that businesses think differently about how they access the skills they need and be more prepared to make accommodations for those that think and act differently.
It is companies and organisations that think differently and are prepared to offer unconventional hiring methods that will really benefit from the unique skills of people like James.
Recently, James reflected on his experience working at auticon and says there are some clear differences, “the accommodations for autism are fantastic, and the social support has been invaluable. My job coaches have been helping me out the whole way which has been amazing.”
“They really help you to not get overwhelmed with client requests and work with you around client engagement. Most jobs that I have had before they give you a week or two’s training then throw you out on the floor and expect you to get on with it. This can be daunting and stressful, not necessarily from a performance perspective but if you don’t understand some of the unwritten social cues with colleges it can riddle you work with misunderstandings leading to unintended consequences.”