Over the last fortnight, the adventures with Autism Works has extended beyond the office, with Peter attending meetings with a large potential client in London as well as attending the National Autistic Society's Undiscovered Workforce conference, while I have also been in London to give training this week.
At the conference, Peter felt he learned much from Sarah Hewitt's work within BT. Sarah, who is diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, works as a Technical Consultant with BT and has since played a very instrumental role both within and beyond BT in terms of making employment more accessible to people on the autistic spectrum, as well as supporting people on the autistic spectrum within employment. I have also been privileged to hear Sarah speak on two occasions, and I have to say that her insight as well as the support that she has had from her managers at BT has really helped me with my tasks of developing the Autism Works recruitment process, especially in relation to the limitation of good practice examples available on employment and Asperger's Syndrome.
It was from Sarah's speech at the National Audit Office in October 2009 and BT's Director of People and Policy Caroline Waters' speech that I picked up on effective reasonable adjustments to recruitment processes as well as what I felt had held me back within my own employment history. Reasonable adjustments that Sarah felt she benefited from and that BT had learned regarding the diversity of their workforce were that it helped to, where possible, avoid asking open questions. If you have read my previous blog entries, you will know that over the last two weeks I have been working on designing the application forms for Autism Works, avoiding where possible asking open questions. The forms have since been tested on some of the ESPA students who have given us some really positive feedback, so I guess I can say that they have 'passed the first test'.
Working together from within and outside the autistic spectrum, Peter and I learn so much from each other. In previous employment, I would often worry when asked to be seen by a colleague or supervisor if I was in some sort of trouble due to a professional or social convention I either hadn't observed or broken when unaware, not to mention the consequences it had on others to which I may have been blind to. It is so refreshing for me though that Peter is first to admit that he often feels more comfortable in the Asperger world than the Neuro-Typical world, particularly in relation to 'normal' being a setting on a washing machine! What he says that he likes best about the Asperger world is its directness and honesty, and that progress within large business could be so much quicker as well as products produced being more reliable if they were dominated by people with Asperger's Syndrome!
On this note, the reasonable adjustments made by the likes of BT and Goldman Sachs through their work with NAS Prospects and further built upon at Autism Works as well as the positive meetings Peter has had with our potential clients hopefully go a long way towards enabling wider access to employment for people on the spectrum.
Be sure to revisit this space for further progress updates.
PS. Two weeks ago, in my post Thinking Outside the Box, I talked about the Nine Dots exercise. Here is the answer: