A Company Recruits Staff With Autism: A Good Thing But….

“German software Giant SAP AG said Tuesday it plans to recruit people with autism to make full use of their talents to process information,” read the article a reader sent me. My first reaction: woo hoo! It’s great to hear about companies making a point of hiring people with special needs.

My next reaction: Why aren’t we hearing about efforts like this in U.S.? It’s a particularly tough job market for people with special needs: According to the Office of Disability Employment Policy, the current unemployment rate for people with disabilities, 12.9%, is almost double that for people without disabilities.

And then, I kept thinking about it. And I wondered if a software company recruiting people with autism to leverage, as the company statement says, “the unique talents of people with autism” was reinforcing the Rainman math-genius stereotype of people with autism. A member of the company’s executive board did note, “Only by employing people who think differently and spark innovation will SAP be prepared to handle the challenges of the 21st century.” That’s an awesome message. But because this is a rare workplace occurrence that’s getting a whole lot of attention, the takeaway for the vast majority of people might be that people with autism are tech whizzes. A positive and yet, typifying any population undermines individuals’ unique offerings.

Wouldn’t it be awsesome if a big-deal fashion company made a big-deal effort to hire people with special needs? A public relations company? A major law firm? ANY company?

Max is only 10 but I often wonder what kind of job the future holds for him. He has an intellectual disability, and the workers with ID I see in our community are usually making sandwiches at Subway or cleaning tables at Whole Foods. If those are jobs Max might someday want, then great—ultimately it’s all about what makes him happy. Still, I want him to have many, many work possibilities to choose from. I would like him to feel that the job world is his oyster, as I did when I graduated college.

The bottom line is, more companies in this country need to make a concerted effort to hire people with special needs. And then, maybe someday, we’ll get to a place where a company hiring people with special needs isn’t “special” and headline-making but the norm.

Image of magnifying glass over classified section via Shutterstock

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