Autism Speaks Crowdsources a Solution for Autistic Job Seekers

The group recognized its constituents were having difficulty finding jobs, so they returned to an innovative partner to help solve a complex problem. Moving away from the same old-same old and thinking outside the box were key.

For the one in 45 adults on the autism spectrum, finding a job can have unique challenges. Autism Speaks, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting solutions for people with autism and their families, decided to find a way to solve the issue by throwing the net wide and launching the “Autism Employment Connector Challenge” with crowdsourcing platform HeroX.

The goal of the challenge is to find a solution that will increase accessibility to employment networking and career-development opportunities for people with autism and help them to effectively communicate their skills and abilities to prospective employers.

Autism Speaks continued to hear from constituents—and their families—that they faced significant challenges navigating the world of networking and applying for jobs. For example, some autistic job seekers have difficulty handling certain interfaces, understanding abstract language, and communicating their abilities using traditional text and talk.

“They felt lost and noticed they had trouble competing against people who are neurotypical and come from more traditional schools and colleges to a career path,” said David Kearon, director of adult services and support at Autism Speaks. “It’s something we knew we needed to address.”

The group recognized, however, that they were talking to the same people about the same problems and coming up with the same solutions that weren’t really working for the community. Autism Speaks worked with HeroX in 2015 on a different challenge—helping to provide housing and residential support to people with autism around the world—so they turned to them again to find another solution to a complex problem.

“Current employment platforms operate under cultural rules that might not be inclusive to everyone,” said Kal K. Sahota, CEO of HeroX, in a press release. “The HeroX community is filled with disruptive thinkers who can re-envision how applicants with autism find jobs, making sure we can all benefit from the skills they bring to the table.”

Submissions for the challenge are due by March 1, and the winners will be announced during World Autism Month in April. Judges come from a variety of backgrounds and will include people with autism. They will look for solutions that are empowering for people with autism and their special interests and skills; accessible to all types of people and learners; inclusive of all different communities; and that offer autonomy to the autistic user.

The top winning solutions will receive $15,000, $10,000, and $5,000, respectively. The prize money comes from an anonymous donor who wants to further employment opportunities for people with autism.

The group had to take an honest look inward to move forward. “The first step was to acknowledge that we didn’t know what we don’t know,” Kearon said. “Looking outside the box and being willing to partner with an organization outside of our charity was important.”

(marchmeena29/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Lisa Boylan

By Lisa Boylan

Lisa Boylan is a senior editor of Associations Now. MORE

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