Autistic workers can help firms grow

  • Article by: DEE DePASS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 20, 2011 - 1:36 PM

Cargill, 3M and Best Buy brought in noted animal scientist Temple Grandin to focus attention on the disorder.

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davehougFeb. 21, 11 6:57 AM

I hope the meeting was better than this article about giving examples of how autism workers are an excellent match for certain jobs and give unique insights. Advances are more likely to come fron a NEW view than somebody who repeats the mind-set of others. - Customer service may not be the best starting place though.

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minneg56Feb. 21, 11 8:08 AM

@davehoug- spot on. Also, there are ranges of autism -from super high functioning autistics such as Grandin to those who require 24/7 observation so they do not engage in self injurious behavior. A movie like 'Rain Man' and a feature on a 'super star autistic' such as Grandin are 'door openers' to explore the world of autism. But their abilities give a wrong impression of autistics as a general population. The 'Rain Mans' and Grandins of the world are rare and aren't truly representive of the greater autistic community and their ability ranges- not any more so than Wayne Gretzky is representative of the general hockey playing population. One may begin to understand autism through someone like Temple Grandin. But, those who truly know the 'autism landscape' have lived the life as parents, siblings, para pros in a classroom or as PCAs to an autistic. The upside of this is the general populaton will begin to recognize autism and what some with the malady can do. But, there is a long way to go for people to understand how most other autistic people can be integrated into the work place. There is also a long way to go in understanding what autistic people and their families endure in accomodations and life compromises to simply get an appropriate education, navigate a trip to the grocery or a family dinner at a restaraunt- let alone getting to work and making a contribution there.

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cindystribFeb. 21, 11 9:18 AM

@davehoug - what gave you the idea she was only talking customer service? She mentioned scientists, engineers, all kinds of jobs. @minneg56 - note that she kept referring to "Aspies." She has what used to be call Aspergers (and is now called "high functioning autism"). These are the people she was talking about. She wasn't talking about integrating the severely impaired -- that's not her area of expertise. I'd bet the number of Aspies outnumbers the severely impaired people with autism at least 3-to-1, because so many of them never even get diagnosed. That certainly seems the case in the schools...more and more "high functioning" kids are being identified, and are outnumbering the severely challenged. And yes, we have two people in our family who are Aspies -- and one of them is my husband.

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djuddfsiFeb. 21, 1110:28 AM

As a parent of 3 boys on the spectrum, I appreciate all Temple has done and continues to do to educate people about Aspies and Autistic people. I have gone to a couple of her talks and she is amazing. She gives insight as to how people on the spectrum think and react. It has helped our family greatly. I also applaud Cargill, Best Buy, and 3M for taking a leadership role in the employment of these people! The one thing I can tell all of you is that people on the spectrum usually have one thing they are very focused on. "Very" might not be the best word... Maybe extremely focused on. As parents of 3 kids on the spectrum, we try to help them hone their skills in these areas and develop useful knowledge. They are very intelligent kids. Cute too! Thanks again to Temple!

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minneg56Feb. 21, 1110:31 AM

@cindystrib- sounds like you know the territory on the 'higher functioning' end. I know it from the other side. For a long time, autism became the 'diagnostic catch all' for almost any issue which didn't fall under abject mental retardation (mid 80's through the 90's). This was also a time when schools systems were caught by surprise by autism and by parents who were willing to advocate for some form of education for their children- not necessarily mainstreaming either. Although diagnositically they seem to fall on the same line of 'spectrum disorders' 'Aspies' seem to fall into a higher functioning range. Speech, cognitive abilities and generally high functionality. In my experience with an autistic child (now an adult) I've seen a range of abilities from lack of speech and lack of recognition of danger to people who 'blur the line' between autism and what I'd interpret to be Asperger's. The danger in all this from my perspective is that people will read one article on Temple Grandin and then assume anyone 'on the spectrum' is a Temple waiting to happen. It can happen and wonderful it's recognized. It must also be understood that a Temple Grandin is about as rare as Luciano Pavarotti.

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djuddfsiFeb. 21, 11 2:11 PM

minneg56, You are correct in saying that Temple is an anomaly. Most of these children have other issues as well that will keep them from being totally mainstreamed. Even when mainstreamed, they can require assistance. What Temple says to the HR people of these large corporations is that if someone doesn't interview well, don't discount them. Also, there are new things being learned constantly on how to work with Autistic people. And you are right. Aspies is high on the spectrum in regards to functioning. One note, Temple says that she was an arm flapping, non verbal, squealing 8 y/o. Her mom worked extensively to explain things to her. She must have been a very patient person....

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reasonable2Feb. 21, 11 4:49 PM

I invite all those interested in autism to get the HBO film "Temple Grandin" starring Claire Dane. It won several awards, is out in DVD and will open your eyes, maybe inspire you and maybe make you sad that more is not being done to assist their development. There is so much that these folks can do and even more we can learn FROM THEM.

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reasonable2Feb. 21, 11 5:06 PM

Another interesting lesson Ms. Grandin has given the aspergers community is about sensory overload (mentioned in the article). She pointed out that the fluorescent lights in a typical classroom flash off and on at 60 cycles per second, and contribute to sensory overload in those who have autism. One other attribute of her "brain wiring" that helps others understand the mind of an autistic person, she illustrated in her book "Thinking in Pictures".

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gogranny07Feb. 24, 1112:03 AM

My "Aspie" is a 25-year-old college grad with a Bachelor of Science in International Business and a minor in Economics, but does not yet number among the whopping 3% of the people on the spectrum who are employed. He has so much to offer and businesses need to wake up to what they're missing. Dr. Grandin stressed what loyal and dedicated workers they can be. I can attest to the determination of my young adult, who has worked a high-pressure assembly line summer job, done security at a casino, and traveled much of the world alone. The HR folks need to look beyond the job interviews, which are hell for neuro-typical people but even worse for those on the autistic spectrum, and recognize what Aspies can do with the right support. Please, my son needs a job! As the director of AuSM said at the conclusion of the forum, "If not now, when?"

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brooklynFeb. 24, 1112:26 PM

I was att he conference and I agree that Temple Grandin is an amazing speaker. She was very accurate in her challenge to companies and especially the practices of the Human services. We need to change how they go about assessing us for the workforce. When we are better understood by the workforce we will have mass appeal on the jobsite. It is not a long time from now but a huge consciousness shift will have to occur. As to all of these comments that Ms Grandin is an anomaly and most of the people with Autism diagnosis can not be like her, are wrong. My wife walked away from the conference with the same comment and I agree it is seductive to think that way, but Temple and Bill Gates are more courageous. It is courage to endure with one's liabilities to persevere to their level of success, not that you are lacking. Lower functioning Autism is considered to be retarted but that is not true, it is that we are difficult to accurately assess intellectually, thus we struggle on the job site.

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