Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is used to describe the varying degrees a person’s development is affected. Symptoms range from difficulty with communication and social interactions, repetitive behaviors and obsessive interests. In the United States alone there are over 3.5 million people on the spectrum. The prevalence of autism in American children has increased by 119.4 percent from 2000 (1 in 150) to 2010 (1 in 68). Also boys are five times more likely to be affected by autism than girls. Geneticists explain this through the “female protective model.” This model suggests that girls have a higher tolerance for detrimental genetic mutations and therefore require a larger number of them than boys to reach the diagnostic threshold of a developmental disorder.
Companies are recognizing that there is an under-utilized talent pool within the Autism community and are creating targeted initiatives and programs to recruit, train and advance employees who are on the spectrum.
Freddie Mac has been hiring recent college graduates with autism as paid interns through a partnership with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network since 2011. Walgreens employs a high number of individuals with autism and other disabilities at a distribution center in Anderson, South Carolina, which it opened in 2007. This company has also built a mock store in Evanston, Illinois, as part of a workplace training program for individuals with ASD and other disabilities. It established the program in partnership with the Have Dreams Academy.
The Microsoft Autism Hiring program a targeted effort to increase disability employment at Microsoft and beyond. The program consists of a comprehensive one-week interview academy, selection process, and subsequent guided onboarding program for both the new hire and his or her new manager. To date there have been 11 cohorts in the program and 56 hires and two paid internships. Their strong partnership with PROVAIL and the CSAVR have been key to this program’s success.
EY has a program that is growing through which they hire individuals with autism who are highly able in data analytics skills, in raw mathematics skills, and who are technologically facile to work on many of the engagement management support activities that EY uses to support their clients.