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Category Archives: Autism Advocacy

How Autism Can Help You Land a Job

DUBLIN—Some employers increasingly are viewing autism as an asset and not a deficiency in the workplace.

A Germany-based software company has been actively seeking people with autism for jobs, not because of charitable outreach but because it believes features of autism may make some individuals better at certain jobs than those without autism.

It’s a worthy initiative, according to disability experts, since 85% of adults with autism are estimated to be unemployed.

Piloted in Germany, India and Ireland, the program is also launching in four North

SAP employee Patrick Brophy, right, with his co-worker and coach David Sweeney. Ciaran Dolan for The Wall Street Journal

SAP aims to have up to 1% of its workforce—about 650 people—be employees with autism by 2020, according to Jose Velasco, head of the autism initiative at SAP in the U.S.

People with autism spectrum disorder—characterized by social deficits and repetitive behavior—tend to pay great attention to detail, which may make them well suited as software testers or debuggers, according to Mr. Velasco, who has two children with the condition.

In addition, these people bring a different perspective to the workplace, which may help with efficiency and creativity as well, he said.

“They have a very structured nature” and like nonambiguous, precise outcomes, Mr. Velasco said. “We’re looking at those strengths and looking at where those traits would be of value to the organization.”

Autistic employees at SAP take on roles such as identifying software problems, and assigning customer-service queries to members of the team for troubleshooting.

One employee works in “talent marketing,” issuing communications to employees internally. The company is looking for someone to produce videos and is considering an applicant with autism who has experience in media arts.

SAP is also considering other positions, such as writing manuals to give clients very precise instructions on how to install software.

Individuals with autism might excel at going step by step, without skipping details that others may miss, said Mr. Velasco. The business procurement process, such as getting invoices or managing the supply chain, is another area in which an individual with autism might shine, he said.

SAP isn’t the only company to have such a program. In the U.S., mortgage lenderFreddie Mac FMCC -1.12% has offered career-track internships since 2012, including in IT, finance and research.

The lender hired its first full-time employee from the program in January, according to a Freddie Mac spokeswoman. In IT, the company has found that interns often perform well in testing and data-modeling jobs that require great attention to detail and focus as well as a way of seeing things that might not have been anticipated by the developers.

“Harnessing the unique skills of people on the autism spectrum has the potential to strengthen our business and make us more competitive,” according to the lender’s policy.

To be sure, as with any group, people with autism have a range of interests and abilities. SAP is working with a Danish autism-focused training and consultancy firm, Specialisterne, which carefully screens and interviews the candidates to find the appropriate matches before sending them to SAP to evaluate.

Patrick Brophy, 29 years old, has a bachelor’s degree in computer science in software systems and a master’s in multimedia systems, which includes website development and editing. Mr. Brophy says he has Asperger’s, a term commonly used to describe a milder form of autism spectrum disorder.

He had been looking for full-tine work for a few years but said that in the handful of interviews he went to, he would sometimes stutter or misinterpret questions, which he felt reflected poorly on him in the interviews.

When he arrived at SAP for the screening day, however, he had the technical qualifications and he appeared to have skills to work in a corporate setting, according to Peter Brabazon, Specialisterne program manager. Mr. Brophy was hired by the quality assurance department in July, where he identifies glitches in software prior to it being issued to clients.

“Four weeks before joining, I was steadily more and more nervous,” said Mr. Brophy, who worried about his adjustment to a new environment. “Within a month, [the work] was second nature. I had found myself.”

Mr. Brophy said there have been challenges with his job, particularly when he has to revamp how he does a certain task.

From a social standpoint, he found it easy to integrate into his team, said both Mr. Brophy and David Sweeney, a colleague assigned to be his mentor.

About 1% of the population in the U.S.—or some three million people—is thought to have an autism-spectrum disorder. The latest figures issued Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that one in 68 children have been identified with an autism-spectrum disorder.

Their lifetime employment rate is extremely low even though many want to work, said disability experts. Among young adults between 21 and 25 years old, only half have ever held a paid job outside the home, according to a study published last year in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Though many people with autism go on to higher education and are qualified for employment, they may have trouble getting in the door of a workplace because of difficulties with networking or interviews, according to Wendy Harbour, executive director of the Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Education, at Syracuse University.

There are a number of companies and outreach efforts that aim to hire people with autism, seeking to tailor work to their abilities.

But SAP and employers like Freddie Mac said their effort is specifically a business decision to take advantage of what they see as unique skill sets.

SAP said that individuals being considered to work there usually have had at least some higher education.

In Dublin, the candidates arrive at the company’s software design center, dubbed the “AppHaus,” which features open spaces, movable desks and whimsical furniture. They are asked to work in pairs on a task building a motorized robot. Candidates are given the instruction manual and brief instructions.

Assessors from Specialisterne look to see if the candidates listen to instructions and pick up on cues, and how they react to challenges such as how the colors of the pieces to the robot look different from the instruction manual. “I want to see how they work together and their technical skills,” said Debbie Merrigan, one of the assessors for Specialisterne.

She wants them to be meticulous, she says. If they aren’t it doesn’t mean they aren’t employable, but they may not be a good fit for working at SAP. Sometimes candidates get overwhelmed and simply leave.

After Specialisterne identifies a candidate as being a good fit, SAP then conducts further interviews, as they would with any other applicant, says Kristen Doran, a program manager in human resources at SAP Dublin. At this facility, 15 candidates were screened and interviewed in order to hire the three who are currently placed as contractors. Mr. Brophy works in the quality assurance department while the other two individuals are in the troubleshooting division.

The candidates are paid market rate and if they succeed on the job, they will be hired as full-time employees after a year, said Liam Ryan, managing director of SAP Labs Ireland.

Difficulties with social interaction and inflexibility can sometimes pose significant problems for individuals with autism, and SAP has a mentoring system and in some cases has made changes to the work schedule to accommodate these new employees. The company also conducts a month of employee-adaptation training to increase employees’ comfort level at working with the team as well as another month or more of job training.

“It’s hard to go into a corporate space if you prefer order to disorder,” says Thorkil Sonne, founder of Specialisterne. “Our biggest effort is to work with them…to define and strengthen their comfort zone,” said Mr. Sonne, who has a son with autism.

World Health Assembly Adopts Resolution on Autism

Today the World Health Assembly adopted a formal resolution making autism a global health priority. The assembly is the governing body of the World Health Organization (WHO). As such, the resolution brings a formal commitment by member states of the United Nations.

Autism Speaks’ Andy Shih announced the good news of the WHO resolution on autism this morning at the meeting of the Autism Speaks Global Advocacy Leadership Network.Andy Shih, Autism Speaks senior vice president for scientific affairs announced the good news this morning at the second annual meeting of Autism Speaks Advocacy Leadership Network, in New York City. (More about this year’s meetinghere.) Dr. Shih heads Autism Speaks Global Autism Public Health initiative.

“The World Health Assembly, comprised of health ministers from around the world, adopted a new autism developmental disabilities resolution early this morning,” said Shih. “This historic resolution firmly establishes autism as a global public health priority and provide stakeholders everywhere a powerful new advocacy tool.”

The resolution was co-sponsored by more than 50 countries and supported by all members, including the U.S. It sets out a clear set of actions to be undertaken by WHO member nations to support individuals, families and communities affected by them.

Read the full resolution – “Comprehensive and Coordinated Efforts for the Management of Autism Spectrum Disorders” – here. Listen to Dr. Shih’s call to action at the WHO’s first conference on autism last year.

 

For the original article published on Autism Speaks website, see the link below:

https://www.autismspeaks.org/science/science-news/world-health-assembly-adopts-resolution-autism

Light It Up Blue 2014

On April 2 2014, Autism Speaks celebrated World Autism Awareness Day with the 5th annual Light It Up Blue campaign and a series of awareness events. Over 10,000 homes, businesses and landmarks in 136 countries on 7 continents lit up blue to shine a bright light on autism. People around the world participated in Light It Up Blue to raise autism awareness. Autism Speaks created the video below with highlights from around the world of those who celebrated autism awareness by lighting it up blue.

[youtube_sc url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98eynkEJ2zA”]

ABA And Licensing: Why It Matters For Your Insurance

The implementation of autism insurance laws has been frustrated at times by demands that practitioners of applied behavior analysis (ABA) gain a state license before their services can qualify for reimbursement — even in states that do not have licenses for behavior analysts. The Autism Speaks Legal Resource Center joined recently in a lawsuit that successfully overturned such a demand in California. Dan Unumb, executive director of the center, weighs in.

In a case brought by Consumer Watchdog, the California Court of Appeals ruled on April 23 that the state’s Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) erred by allowing insurers to deny coverage of ABA therapy provided by behavior analysts who are nationally board certified, but for whom no license has been created under California law.

 

Because only a small number of persons licensed in other professions in California are trained to provide ABA, DMHC’s policy led to delays and denials of medically necessary treatment.

The DMHC policy was also contrary to the position of the state’s other regulator of insurance—the California Department of Insurance—and the terms of California’s 2011 autism insurance law which applies to other insurance policies not involved in the case. That statute requires coverage of ABA when provided or supervised by Board Certified Behavior Analysts certified by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB), a professional accreditation organization which certifies behavior analysts nationally and internationally.

Similar to state licensing laws, BACB certification requires meeting rigorous education, fieldwork, and examination requirements, as well as continuing education requirements and adherence to ethical standards.

The Autism Speaks Legal Resource Center filed a friend-of-the-court brief which I authored along with Robert Barnes of the national law firm Kaye Scholer.

In the brief, we noted that while an increasing number of states have adopted a license for behavior analysts, the vast majority of states still do not have such a license. Instead, they provide that insurance-reimbursed ABA services can be provided or supervised by Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs).

Absent a state license for behavior analysts, BACB certification is the only credential that reflects and requires expertise in behavior analysis. Even in states that have created a state license for behavior analysts, BACB certification is the key prerequisite to obtain a license.  States requiring insurance coverage of ABA also follow the BACB-approved and clinically validated tiered delivery model where a BCBA supervises behavior technicians who provide line therapy to the child who may need as much as 30 to 40 hours a week of therapy to achieve effective long term results.

In our brief, we pointed out that in addition to the legislature’s approval of BCBA practice under California’s 2011 ABA insurance statute, unlicensed BCBA’s have effectively delivered ABA services for years in California, including under contracts with the state’s Regional Centers which provide services to the disabled.

The Court of Appeals agreed that the lack of a California license for behavior analysts could not be a basis for denying medically necessary ABA therapy by BCBAs. The court held that the “ABA statute constitutes legislative approval of the practice of ABA by BACB-certified providers and individuals under their supervision. That legislative approval effectively qualifies BACB-certification as a “license” to provide ABA.”

The court went on to make clear that the 2011 autism insurance law applied even to therapy delivered under plans not expressly covered by the statute, such as California’s public employee plans (CalPERS). According to the court, “legislative authorization to provide ABA in this state cannot depend upon the health plan in which a patient is enrolled. To hold otherwise would create an irrational inconsistency in our state licensing laws.”

The California ruling may be useful in other states which have not yet adopted a license for behavior analysts. Most importantly, families insured through CalPERS plans will now be able to access medically necessary services just like other families. The children of firefighters, teachers and others covered by CalPERS deserve no less.

Below is the link to the original article posted on Autism Speaks website on Friday, May 2nd.

https://www.autismspeaks.org/blog/2014/05/02/aba-and-licensing-why-it-matters-your-insurance

 

Autism Awareness Training for First Responders Teaches Emergency Personnel How to Respond to Individuals with Autism

Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD) and Institute for Behavioral Training (IBT) today announced that they will partner to train first responders on how to approach and interact with individuals with autism spectrum disorder beginning in April for Autism Awareness Month. IBT has trained over 3,000 people across the United States and various countries since 2013. The free training titled, “Autism for First Responders,” will be presented in Fairport, N.Y. on April 30; Larchmont, N.Y. on April 30; Chicago, Ill. on April 23; Austin, Texas on April 26; Phoenix, Ariz. on April 28 and 29; Washington, D.C. on April 23; and in the following California cities, Sacramento on April 28, Fresno on April 25, Woodland Hills on April 24, Thousand Oaks on April 30, Tustin on May 1, Temecula on April 29, Riverside on April 28, and San Marcos on April 29.

According to the new statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on March 27, 2014, one in every 68 children in America is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), with one in 42 boys and one in 189 girls diagnosed. As more children, teens and adults are impacted by ASD, more police and other first responders will have interactions with the population.

Individuals with autism may struggle to communicate, make appropriate eye contact or even respond to someone asking them their name. The behaviors that children and teens with ASD display vary greatly, which is why autism is described as a spectrum disorder. Parents and professionals agree that safety is a huge concern for everyone in this population as they may be easily distracted, lost or even elope from their school or surroundings. The “Autism for First Responders” training will enable emergency personnel to recognize the signs of ASD and react accordingly to minimize their own risk and that of the individuals with autism.

“Training first responders to recognize ASD is crucial,” said Cecilia H. Knight, director of IBT. “Helping a family find a child who has wandered away, protecting an adult with autism whose behavior is misunderstood, or helping a paramedic know how to interact when a child is injured can truly make a life or death difference. Recognizing the signs of autism and knowing how to react is key.”

The trainings will be hosted by CARD treatment centers across the United States. IBT’s training will teach attendees the signs and symptoms of ASD, how to communicate with individuals who appear to be affected by autism and tips for first responders who interact with individuals on the spectrum. For more information on the events or to set-up a training, please visit https://www.centerforautism.com/first-responders.aspx
For the original article see the link below

https://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/04/prweb11782687.htm