Promoting the autism advantage on World Autism Awareness Day

autismThe United Nations General Assembly unanimously declared 2 April as World Autism Awareness Day to highlight the need to help improve the quality of life of children and adults, who are affected by autism, so they can lead full and meaningful lives.

Since then, there has been a growing public awareness about autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders and an increase in public services to those affected. Greater understanding allows parents to seek early intervention therapies. It encourages policy-makers to prompt schools to open their doors to students with autism who, with adequate support, can be educated in the heart of their communities.

This year, World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) will highlight the unique talents of people with autism and what is required to promote growth in employment opportunities. People with autism often possess in greater abundance than “neurotypical” workers do – such as, heightened abilities in pattern recognition and logical reasoning, as well as a greater attention to detail. These exceptional and unique skills make them valuable employees to organizations. Such qualities make them ideally suited to certain kinds of employment, such as software testing, data entry, lab work and proofreading, to name just a few examples. The hurdles that need to be overcome to unleash this potential include: a shortage of vocational training, inadequate support with job placement, and pervasive discrimination.

Article 27 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on Work and Employment calls upon States Parties to promote and protect the right of persons with disabilities, to work on an equal basis with others and to an environment that is open, inclusive and accessible. The Convention also works to enable persons with disabilities to have effective access to general technical and vocational guidance programmes, placement services and training.

However, certain issues have not received due attention that are a cause for concern. For example, what happens when a young person with autism has completed school and prepares to face life as an adult? It is estimated that even in those parts of the world where awareness about autism is most advanced, more than 80% of adults with autism are unemployed or underemployed.

To help realize “the autism advantage”, there will be a “Call to Action” launched at the United Nations on 2 April, inviting businesses to make pledges and commitments to employ persons with autism as well as to create work zones where people with autism can excel. Businesses are encouraged to use the platform established by the United Nations Global Compact.

The event at UN Headquarters will include a discussion by a panel of experts that will cover: inadequate support with job placement, pervasive discrimination and a shortage of vocational training.

World Autism Awareness Day aims to help improve the quality of life of those who are affected by autism so they can lead a full and meaningful life as valuable members of their communities.

For more information: World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD)