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Why I Speak With Businesses Around the World About Autism and Employment

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Because autistic adults deserve a chance to succeed just like anyone else.

Growing up autistic, I wasn’t sure what my future would look like when employed. I knew I had vital interests in sports and theater, but I didn’t know if some of my challenges, such as the inability to read body language, needing breaks at times due to long periods of social interaction, or inconsistent eye contact, would be accepted in a workplace setting.

I went from a Sports Management degree at Seton Hall University, where I was assuming I’d take my love of sports to do something in sports radio or television, to changing career paths to follow more of my theater roots. This led to me getting a Masters’s in Strategic Communications to become one of the only professionally certified speakers who are also autistic in the country. I would later get my Doctor in Education from New Jersey City University.

Now being in this line of work for over a decade, I’ve made it a passion to help autistics with their path towards finding meaningful employment. This fueled my fire very early on in my speaking career to speak with businesses about “The ROI benefits of Hiring Autistic People in the Workplace.” I realized that even if some of the autistic people I was working with understood the path they wanted to go down, they sometimes needed an accepting environment, similar to the challenges I dealt with when I was starting. Today, some statistics indicate that up to 90% of autistic adults are either unemployed or underemployed in the United States. In addition, there are many companies who, as part of their online literature towards diversity and inclusion practices, don’t have anything on their site about disability. Something I mention in my talks to start the conversation is that…

Autistic adults are more likely to stay at a job longer and take fewer days off than their neurotypical coworkers.

The majority of reasonable accommodations provided to autistic employees cost $0. It’s not about what a company can do for an autistic person; it’s what an autistic person can do for that company.

This is only to start the conversation, though where I give talks for professional development for all employees (often as part of lunch-and-learns or work symposiums) and later to Human Resources about how to make sure autistics aren’t being taken advantage of and that they have breaks to be able to thoroughly succeed on the job.

Topics addressed include onboarding best practices, workplace bullying, mentoring opportunities, and more. Because of this work, I’ve been able to speak with groups such as Lowes, Wyndham Resorts, American Express, EBSCO, PSE&G & PNC Bank, among others, including smaller companies that are just starting. One of the most amazing opportunities of my career was when Google asked me to give a talk as part of their “Talks at Google” series on autism and employment.

You can learn more about my work here.

Originally published: January 20, 2022
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