Organisations collaborate to help breakdown barriers for autism employees

Posted 6 years ago by Andrew Lodiong

Four organisations have joined forces in a bid to pioneer a way to help people on the autism spectrum face challenges in the workplace.

Australia’s La Trobe University, Israel’s Ono Academic College and University of Haifa will work alongside DXC Technology in this new project.

La Trobe University’s Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre (OTARC) professor Cheryl Dissanayake is delighted with the collaboration.

“This new collaboration with our colleagues in Israel will be used to validate and use the Work Performance Questionnaire (WPQ) in our research locally,” she says.

“We are in need of innovative tools and approaches to enhance employment success for people with autism, who sadly remain largely unemployed and underemployed in our community, despite their many talents.”

Researchers from Israel’s learning institutes developed and revised the WPQ before assessing its psychometric properties in more than 100 employed individuals with autism in the country.

La Trobe’s OTARC researchers translated and revise the WPQ into English, with colleagues from the university’s Business School given the duty of collecting data to help in the instrument validation process in OTARC’s work with DXC.

DXC Technology’s Emerging Businesses and Cybersecurity director Michael Fieldhouse is excited about the partnership and feels the tool is a step forward in achieving a more equal workplace.

“Employer tools such as this will help organisations transition to neuro-diverse workplaces,” Mr Fieldhouse  says.

“Our goal is to make systematic and sustainable change to our workplaces to create a more neuro-diverse work environment.”

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the unemployment rate for people with autism spectrum disorders was 31.6 percent.

This more more than three times the rate for people with disability (10 percent) and almost six times the rate of people without disability (5.3 percent).

Challenges in the workplace may include difficulty with social interaction, impairments in verbal and non-verbal communication, difficulty planning goal-directed activities and high levels of anxiety.

Autism West acting CEO Louise Sheehy believes this tool has been highly needed.

“There is a growing emphasis amongst employers on strategies to accommodate individuals with autism to enable successful employment for their potential contributions given their strengths in areas such as focus as well as improving each individual’s equality of opportunity,” Mrs Sheehy says.

“A frequent issue that our participants face is how to gain employment that gives them an opportunity to develop a career that is meaningful for them.”

Autism West is a not-for-profit organisation based in Western Australia that provides unique opportunities for young people on the autism spectrum to gain skills and experience, enabling them to connect successfully with others.

Mrs Sheehy is confident the new innovation will be effective and takes comfort in knowing technological advancements can help take such important issues.

“With the toolkit focussing on a demonstrating on the strengths of the individuals it gives individuals an opportunity to demonstrate what they can do which is a step in the right direction, too often the emphasis has been focussed on deficits,” she expresses.

“It is an exciting time as the momentum around equality of opportunity gathers strength and there is recognition that the world is a better place with diversity.”  

“Technology assists these developments and society gets to see that the world is different for all of us and that is a good thing.”

Autism West will continue to advocate for potential solutions and work with employers to combat the challenges people with autism face.