By Soon Li Wei
PETALING JAYA, April 10 (Bernama) -- Danny Lim, 17, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) when he was just two years old.
ASD is a neurological and developmental disorder that affects a person's ability in learning, communication and interaction.
Lim's mother Janet Wang, 40, was once depressed because her daily life with a special needs child faces various unique challenges and the need for early intervention.
What worries Wang, even more, is her son's future, especially being accepted in society through job employment when he reaches adulthood.
Although it is a chance for Lim to be independent, Wang has no confidence as she is concerned that he will not be able to adapt to the working environment, as well as the social stigma and ignorance of co-workers towards ASD that come along with it.
Most of the people will think that working with ASD sufferers are challenging because of their difficulties in communicating, not understanding others and lacking broad intellectual abilities.
But in the right job and with the right support, people with ASD have much to offer as they are often accurate, reliable, and have a good eye for detail which exactly are the traits required in most of the workplaces, said Keith Bates from the University of Sheffield.
The researcher, developer and consultant in supported employment said according to United Kingdom's National Autistic Society (NAS), only 16 per cent of people on the autistic spectrum — who have one of a range of conditions that affect their social interaction and other behaviour - are employed.
"The reason why they are hired is that most of the companies have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for their ASD staff.
"For example, the colours on the computer screen or a particular noise or seating position in the workspace, as the person may need to sit in a quiet area of the office or you could provide them with noise cancelling headphones.
"Secondly on the policy-making such as to provide flexible hours, setting target adjustments and extra or split break times for them," he said during Autism Awareness Programme Seminar organised by Yayasan Gamuda’s Enabling Academy (EA) here, today.
EA project leader Hong Kok Siong said people with autism face a particular challenge getting hired because of the traditional interview process, which tends to reward candidates with smooth social skills.
“A job interview is often the worst way to determine if an autistic applicant is qualified for a given position, thus it is all about social communication,
“We recommend that, rather than a traditional job interview, the company provides a more practical way of assessing a prospective employee’s skills,” he told Bernama.
He said EA, which trains ASD individuals for employment in corporate bodies, is leading the change by paving the way for these individuals to find sustainable employment in white-collar roles.
"They are taught to adapt and be adept in skills that can help them integrate better via a three-month programme, which focuses on hands-on training in work-environment simulations, technical knowledge and communication skills," he said.
To date, Gamuda has employed 20 employees with autism and the number continues to grow as more than 15 companies have committed to providing opportunities and long-term employment for graduates of the EA, said Hong.
"Companies that hire EA graduates will also be guided and prepared on how they can best work with differently-abled persons through awareness seminars and job coaching workshops.
"Additionally, the programme also helps partner companies carve out suitable job functions and responsibilities for selected candidates. It also provides continuous consultative support to partner employers, post-recruitment," he said.
A total of 30 individuals on the autism spectrum have been trained at the EA since it opened in May 2017.