John Harris

Journalist & Author

Working with autism: ‘We need people who dare to think differently’

Neurodiversity can be a huge advantage for companies, yet people on the spectrum have often been marginalised. Now some firms are specifically seeking them out. Is this a crucial turning point?

Five minutes from London’s Liverpool street station is an office that looks like any other office in the tech industry: the decor is 21st century, pristine; takeaway coffee cups are omnipresent; most people under 30 are in casualwear. Just about everyone seems to be either staring at a smartphone, tapping at a laptop, or sprinting to their next appointment.

The company I’ve come to visit is called Auticon, an award-winning IT business. As well as the staff in the office, it employs 15 IT consultants who spend most of their time working elsewhere for companies such as pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, the credit rating agency Experian, and Allianz Insurance. But there is a fascinating twist: all of the 15 are autistic, and have been given their jobs after long spells of unemployment – not out of charity or sympathy, but a deep appreciation of the attributes they bring to their work.

‘In the right role and with the right support, an autistic person will significantly outperform a neurotypical person’

Popular understanding of autism still seems to miss out the fact that it defines the lives of adults as well as children

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