Beginning a new job can be a daunting time for people on the autism spectrum, and employers can struggle to provide the right support. But an Australian-first partnership between disability employment services provider EPIC Assist and Neurodiversity experts Thriving Now is looking to change that.
Thriving Now is the brainchild of Dr Michelle Garnett, Mr Jay Hobbs and Professor Tony Attwood, respected psychologists specialising in autism spectrum disorders. They created Thriving Now in 2017 to support employees on the autism spectrum and their employers with the effective transition to work. To date, their training has been completed by almost 100 people on the autism spectrum and several large and small employers across the UK, Northern Ireland, Canada and Australia.
Professor Attwood says bringing EPIC Assist on as a partner will contribute to their goal of achieving greater diversity and inclusion in Australian workplaces.
“Our vision is for individuals on the autism spectrum to be well prepared for entering the workplace, and for businesses to feel capable and confident in hiring and supporting people on the autism spectrum,” explains Professor Attwood.
“The key is having both parties understanding one other, and that comes through education.”
Thriving Now’s training can be delivered to people on the autism spectrum either online, or face- to-face individually or in small groups, with online training modules available to employers.
EPIC Assist CEO Bill Gamack says if businesses haven’t hired people on the autism spectrum before, it can seem like delving into ‘the great unknown’.
“Some people believe individuals on the autism spectrum are incapable of performing well in a workplace, and that’s just not the case,” says Mr Gamack.
“People on the autism spectrum have a great deal to offer, but businesses and employees can run into problems when there’s a lack of understanding and communication.”
The training provides practical tools and tips, while encouraging all parties to understand different perspectives and develop the skills and knowledge necessary to thrive.
“Professor Stephen Shore says it best: it’s not about changing the person on the autism spectrum, it’s about working with them,” said Mr Gamack.
“When the characteristics and attributes of people on the autism spectrum are embraced and supported within a workplace, anything is possible. We are encouraging businesses to open their minds, and focusing on what the person can do and what they can contribute.”