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Scotland’s leading companies are realising what advantages autistic employees can bring

Tue 15 Mar 2011 07:00


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Scotland’s leading companies are realising what advantages autistic employees can bring

And specialists in placing people on the autistic spectrum are attracting the attention of high-profile organisations.

Key employers are realising that people with autism can bring huge benefits to their organisations. And a company set-up to place people with autism in long-term employment has seen increases in approaches from blue-chip companies.

says many firms are now recognising that some of the classic traits of autism – including excellent memory, reliability, meticulousness, persistence and attention to detail are also the attributes of the ‘ideal employee’.

Kieran Pentland, 41, has been a consultant with Prospects since 2008 and has Asperger syndrome. He said: “It’s a common misconception that all people with autism are withdrawn and quiet. I’m a lively, outgoing person and I love working with my clients. I’m living proof that you can have a great career and autism. The two are definitely not mutually exclusive.

“When you have autism your job is never just a job. It’s your life and you’re really passionate about it. It’s great from an employer’s point of view to have talented people with real enthusiasm, and all that’s required is that the person with autism receives the right support from time to time, which is where Prospects comes in.

“Employers are often surprised to learn that simple adjustments, such as flexible working or access to a ‘quiet room’ where you can gather your thoughts can help someone with autism flourish at work.”

Prospects works with clients in diverse sectors including information technology, the care sector, retail and banking.

An estimated 50,000 Scots have autism, a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people, and how they make sense of the world around them.

Of those who fall into the high-functioning category, many have impressive academic qualifications, but only 12 per cent are in paid employment.

Derrick McCourt, director of Microsoft Scotland said, "My son has Asperger syndrome and I understand the extra challenges that young people with autism have in finding the right role in such a competitive environment. The work that the NAS’ recruitment branch does is vital in levelling the playing field for people who have strong, even exceptional talents but who need extra support to realise their full potential and be an amazing staff member."

Jean Coyle, Tesco Group personnel manager, Scotland, said, “Every Tesco store has a responsibility to reflect the community where it is based, and we regularly look at new ways to access the best people and develop ways to support and grow their potential.

“Prospects showed a keen understanding of our values and applied these to identifying and supporting talented individuals who show real enthusiasm and dedication to a long term role with us. We look forward to a continued mutually beneficial relationship with Prospects."


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