Our employment coordination team plays a central role in your success, acting as a liaison between you and the auticon Canada consultant, working hand-in-hand to communicate timelines, manage expectations, resolve needs, and ensure the ultimate success of your program.
Most importantly they work with our clients to help them understand autism in the workplace with inclusive strategies and coaching. Employment coordinators work with our client teams to facilitate feedback and advocate for our consultants.
There is still much work to do in creating equity for our autistic colleagues. The traditional job interview remains a barrier for neurodivergent people; once hired, few are comfortable disclosing they are autistic and asking their employer for support. As a result, many will painfully mask their autistic traits to fit in at work.
The following results from our annual Impact Report demonstrate the success of our consultants with the support of our our amazing employment coordination team:
Ali has supported autistic Canadians in employment, academic, and community settings for over 20 years. Her passion has always been inclusive design – creating practices that enable people from all backgrounds and abilities to succeed across environments. Joining auticon Canada in 2019 represented the culmination of her career goals: The opportunity to work with businesses to create neuro-inclusive practices, and to support the successful career progression of autistic Canadians.
“I am living my dream come true. Not only do we get to help talented people land their dream jobs, and support their careers, but we are working in collaboration with our clients to change Canada’s business landscape. Creating neuro-inclusive workspaces, and education around inclusive design, means that autistic job seekers of the future – like my daughter, will be seen for their talent, and embraced for their diversity of thought. I can’t help but smiling knowing that every day, we’re changing the world.”
What is a typical day like when supporting our autistic consultants?
The thing I love best about my job is, there is no typical day. I work with brilliant, innovative thinkers, who teach me, day in and day out, how much I still have to learn about neurodiversity and inclusion. Even 20+ years in, I am challenged to innovate, to broaden my perspective, and to challenge my beliefs constantly. I spend a lot of time getting to know my colleagues and our business clients so that I can effectively support their individual needs and context, and ultimately, their mutual success.
What “autism masking” behavior can employers be aware of and how can they respond?
Masking can be very challenging to identify. A lot of autistic folks, especially autistic women and members of gender and sexually diverse communities, have spent most of their time at work masking. For some autistic individuals, masking is a conscious and intentional effort to “fit in” that is clearly separate from their authentic self. For others, it may not be as clearly segmented. This means it may be difficult to pick up on masking in the workplace. I think the most effective solution is to create an environment where people are celebrated for being themselves, so masking becomes unnecessary. Companies should avoid a homogeneous culture, and model independent thinking and authenticity from the top. If you encourage everyone to be themselves and celebrate them for their uniqueness, you won’t have to worry that one particular colleague may be masking. We all wear masks, and while this is especially true of neurodivergent people, an environment that celebrates uniqueness, supports all employees’ happiness, success and authenticity.
What advice do you give autistic workers experiencing stress and anxiety from daily events?
I’m all about optimizing work environments through effective communication and education. Typically, this significantly reduces the stress and anxietyour colleagues experience. Often minor changes in processes (e.g., aligning communication styles, and challenging assumptions) are highly successful in the reduction of stress and anxiety for all parties involved. I recognize that this might not always be possible in certain environments, and that many people are working in businesses that are new to neuro-inclusion and DEIB. In the absence of supports at work, developing stress management strategies inside and outside work and incorporating a daily practice can be extremely beneficial. This looks different for everyone.
It may be mindfulness, meditation, taking breaks, or breathing. It may be going to the gym, spending time with friends, doing something you love, or getting professional support. No matter what it is, identifying tools and developing skills for managing stress and anxiety is both extremely important and a lifelong journey for most of us.
What do you think employers get very wrong about supporting autistic employees?
I think the biggest misconception is that autistic people need supports that are “special” or specific to autism. Most of the time, the supports autistic employees require come down to excellent management practices. Best practices such as direct communication, clear expectations, flexibility and a compassionate, flexible management style benefit everyone on the team, and ultimately make the whole team stronger once they’re implemented.
What do employers need to know about performing job interviews with neurodivergent people?
The first thing I would suggest is to shift thinking from cultural fit (i.e., who would fit in to our current culture) to cultural add (i.e., who would add something to our culture that we are missing). By always seeking folks who “fit in”, companies add people who think the same way, prohibiting them from leveraging the innovation that comes with diversity of thought and experience. My other piece of advice is to ask questions related to the tasks and responsibilities of the role (e.g., avoid questions like “if you were an animal what would you be?”, etc.), and to be comfortable with direct, honest answers. We all want honest employees, and yet somehow blunt honesty in an interview is seen as inappropriate. We need to challenge this thinking, because we’re missing out on incredible neurodivergent talent and the very qualities that make an employee extraordinary!