Ep 75 – How to Create an Autism Hiring & Recruiting Program

April is Autism Awareness month. One in sixty-eight births in the United States receives an autism diagnosis. Autism diagnosis are growing in numbers as medical professionals and the public are becoming more aware. As autism diagnosis awareness is on the rise, these children are growing into young adults and a number of companies are developing autism specific hiring campaigns.

I’ve been working with an Austin based healthcare technology startup called CareStarter since mid last year. They provide a mobile resource for caregivers and parents in Texas allowing them to access information and resources related to healthcare providers especially but not exclusively for children with special needs. My work with CareStarter has really opened my eyes, especially with regards to autism diagnosis. Two of my good friends have multiple children with autism and I realized that we in the HR space haven’t talked enough about how employers can and should be hiring adults with autism.

Episode 75: Why Employers Should Hire Adults with Autism, with Dave Kearon (@autismspeaks)

Dave Kearon is the Director of Adult Services with one of the premier non-profits and research groups when it comes to autism, called Autism Speaks. Dave provides us with great resources on the autism diagnosis, also called autism spectrum disorder or ASD, and talks about some of the challenges adults with autism are facing, especially when it comes to getting hired, becoming employed and being an independent member of  your and my community. Autism Speaks creates resources for families and service providers on how they can support people with autism.

Best Practices When Hiring Employees with Disabilities

While Dave addresses the topic of hiring, recruiting and employing those with an autism diagnosis, Dave provides sound insights into the benefits and considerations for employing those with special needs. He suggests that employers expand the interview process. Walk through the job. Waive formal interviews and have trial workdays. Interview for the skills they’ll need for the job. Your current interview and hiring process doesn’t set candidates up with special needs for success, and these processes don’t always effectively measure candidate skills or qualifications outside of how they interview or maintain eye contact with the hiring manager.

Autism Speaks helps employers and businesses in the following ways:

1) Small business accelerator program

2) Advice, a new program and consultancy project comprised of corporate disability consultants. Company contributions will be matched by Autism Speaks.

3) TheSpectrumCareers.com site. This site provides resources and information for employers, families, businesses. Operates as a job board. Businesses can post their jobs. 40,000 jobs currently posted.

Americans with Disabilities Act and Requests for Accommodation

Autism at work programs are not as expensive or as complicated as one might think. More than half of all job accommodations cost $0. Noise canceling headphones or hats, on the other hand, are very expensive accommodations. Dave mentions a handful of great resources including JAN and a number of employment toolkits offered by Autism Speaks which I’ve included in the resources below. Most importantly, Dave provides great suggestions on how companies can get started with their autism hiring programs and talks in length about a number of successful programs including those at SAP and Microsoft, as well as at a number of smaller businesses including Rising Tide Car Wash.

Connect with Dave Kearon on LinkedIn.



*A special thank you to my production team at Total Picture Radio.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.


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