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April is Autism Acceptance Month, Here’s What We’re Doing to Advocate for Neurodiversity 

April is Autism Acceptance Month and as an outspoken advocate, our CEO Peter Mann is spending April sharing his story about what it means to be an entrepreneur who also happens to be neurodivergent. 

Before we share more about his experience, it’s worth noting that we’re following The Autism Society of America and The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) recommendations that we use acceptance instead of awareness. It’s something they’ve done since 2011. This is to highlight that acceptance of autism as a valid human experience, rather than one that needs curing, is necessary for real dialogue to occur.

And what an important dialogue it is. Diagnosed later in life, Peter is very open about his experience and how neurodiversity in the workplace can only serve to benefit everyone. 

He discusses his journey as a Navy veteran, entrepreneur, and late-diagnosed autistic honestly in the hopes that his experiences can help build more inclusivity in the workplace for others. He’s connected with hundreds of others over LinkedIn and has heard many stories from people with autism who are struggling to land a job. 

It’s frustrating to hear, especially as Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion have become increasingly common missions at larger organizations. 

Many companies won’t move forward with an interview if someone has holes in their employment history or jumps from job to job, but it’s worth a conversation as this shouldn’t punish a potential hire. 

There are countless reasons for someone to have gaps in a resume — from health needs to caretaking, and of course, the pandemic that impacted so many. And of course, short stints that might seem like “job hopping” may also be someone trying to find the right organization that values their unique skills and way of working. 

Unfortunately, traditional hiring practices put many at a disadvantage right from the beginning. A person with autism doesn’t typically fit the societal norm for interviewing practices. It’s common for people with autism to not mention this before an interview because they fear it will only hurt their chances. 

They can also have a difficult time asking for accommodations like receiving interview questions beforehand and being refused because it wouldn’t be “fair” to other candidates. That said, when thinking about equity in hiring practices, accommodations like these are what lead to fair practices. 

According to Peter, and the many individuals he’s spoken with, these simple accommodations can help a lot. 

A person with autism may have a difficult time with social cues and in traditional hiring practices this can be viewed as odd. Expectations around eye contact, perceived confidence, or even pausing to think and taking longer to answer a question can distract from a potential candidate’s abilities to do the job well. Those who are introverted and don't display the extroverted personality so many companies are looking for can often be docked in the interview process due to “fit” or “company culture.”

Breaking down the status quo and truly asking yourself what you’re looking for in a potential employee is a great way to start. Having a diverse team with different perspectives is essential in having varying points of view and strengths. A person with autism might be able to hyperfocus and find comfort in working, much like Peter who says he can laser beam into whatever task he’s engaged with. 

Autism acceptance in the workplace allows every employee to work how they need to work to achieve the best results. It’s as easy as listening to your employees’ needs and making changes so the experience is more equitable. 

Whether it’s allowing employees to work with headphones on or changing the lighting in their work area the overall goal is creating the most comfortable environment for each individual to thrive. Everyone has certain needs for their environment to be able to work their best, so why not allow that? 

We are committed to making our hiring practices equitable and inclusive as we hire new employees for our Radford, Virginia facility and across our virtual teams. 

This Autism Acceptance Month, we hope our advocacy can help others understand the importance of making that same commitment.