Depression, Mental Health and Crisis Support 06/04/2017Depression, Mental Health and Crisis Support Depression and other mental health difficulties are common amongst people on the autistic spectrum and their carers. People who are affected by general mental health difficulties are encouraged to receive and share information, support and advice with other forum members, though it is important to point out that this exchange of information is generally based on personal experience and opinions, and is not a substitute for professional medical help. There is a list of sources of mental health support here: <a href="http://www.asd-forum.org.uk/forum/index.php?showtopic=18801" target="_blank">Mental Health Resources link</a> People may experience a more serious crisis with their mental health and need urgent medical assistance and advice. However well intentioned, this is not an area of support that the forum can or should be attempting to offer and we would urge members who are feeling at risk of self-harm or suicide to contact either their own GP/health centre, or if out of hours contact NHS Direct on 0845 4647 or to call emergency services 999. We want to reassure members that they have our full support in offering and seeking advice and information on general mental health issues. Members asking for information in order to help a person in their care are seeking to empower both themselves and those they represent, and we would naturally welcome any such dialogue on the forum. However, any posts which are deemed to contain inference of personal intent to self-harm and/or suicide will be removed from the forum and that person will be contacted via the pm system with advice on where to seek appropriate help. In addition to the post being removed, if a forum member is deemed to indicate an immediate risk to themselves, and are unable to be contacted via the pm system, the moderating team will take steps to ensure that person's safety. This may involve breaking previous confidentiality agreements and/or contacting the emergency services on that person's behalf. Sometimes posts referring to self-harm do not indicate an immediate risk, but they may contain material which others find inappropriate or distressing. This type of post will also be removed from the public forum at the moderator's/administrator's discretion, considering the forum user base as a whole. If any member receives a PM indicating an immediate risk and is not in a position (or does not want) to intervene, they should forward the PM to the moderating team, who will deal with the disclosure in accordance with the above guidelines. We trust all members will appreciate the reasoning behind these guidelines, and our intention to urge any member struggling with suicidal feelings to seek and receive approproiate support from trained and experienced professional resources. The forum guidelines have been updated to reflect the above. Regards, The mod/admin team
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(Not written by me)Where 75% of workers are on the autistic spectrumBy Robbie Wojciechowski21st October 2019Our brains don’t all work the same way. One New York-based software company sees that as a competitive advantage. Rajesh Anandan founded his company Ultranauts (formerly Ultra Testing) with his MIT roommate Art Shectman with one aim: one aim: to prove that neurodiversity and autism could be a competitive advantage in business.“There is an incredible talent pool of adults on the autistic spectrum that has been overlooked for all the wrong reasons,” says 46-year-old Anandan. “People who haven’t had a fair shot to succeed at work, because of workplace and workflow and business practices that aren’t particularly effective for anyone but are especially damaging for anyone who is wired differently.”The New York-based quality engineering start-up is now one of an increasing number of firms looking towards autistic talent. But while programmes at companies including Microsoft and accounting firm EY are small and focused around supporting neurodiverse workers in the office, Ultranauts has redesigned its entire business around neurodiversity, changing hiring efforts to actively recruit individuals on the autism spectrum and developing new workplace practices to effectively manage neurodiverse teams. “We set out to change the blueprint for work, and change how a company could hire, manage and develop talent,” says Anandan.Neurodiversity has risen to the top of the agenda around inclusion at work in recent years, yet it is not a common term. It refers to the range of differences in individual human brain function which can be associated with conditions such as dyslexia, autism and ADHD.Research by the UK’s National Autistic Society (NAS) shows that the figures around employment of people with autism in the UK are still very low. In its survey of 2,000 autistic adults, just 16% were in full-time work, despite 77% of people who were unemployed saying they wanted to work.The barriers to work for people with autism can still be huge, and Richmal Maybank, employer engagement manager at NAS, says many factors contribute to this. “Job descriptions can often have core tick-box behaviours, and can be quite general,” she says. “Forms look for ‘team players’ and ‘staff with great communication skills’ but lack specific information.”Terms like these – or interview questions such as ‘where you see yourself in five years’ – can be too general for people with autism, as many with the condition can find vague questions particularly hard to decipher. Additionally, people can feel uncomfortable disclosing their disability or feel challenged by open-plan workplaces, where they may feel they need to socialise or absorb uncomfortable levels of noise. Five years in, 75% of Ultranauts’ staff are on the autistic spectrum – and one reason for this is its innovative approach to hiring. In other companies, assessing candidates often focuses heavily on communication competencies, which means neurodiverse voices can be excluded. But at Ultranauts there is no interview process and applicants don’t need relevant experience of specific technical skills. “We have adopted an approach to screening job applicants that is much more objective than you’ll find in most places,” says Anandan. Instead of using CVs and interviews, potential employees undergo a basic competency assessment in which they are evaluated against 25 desirable attributes for software testers, such as the ability to learn new systems or take on feedback. Following these initial tests, potential staff undergo a week of working from home fully paid. Potential recruits also know they can choose to work on a DTE (a desired-time equivalent) timetable, meaning they can take on as many hours as they feel comfortable managing, rather than being tied into full-time work.“As a result, we have a talent screening process to take someone who has never done this job and at the end of that process have a 95% degree of confidence… whether people would be great at this,” says Anandan.The competitive advantages of ‘neurodiversity’ Studies by Harvard University and BIMA have shown that embracing and maximising the talents of people who think differently can have huge benefits for a business. Having a neurodiverse workforce has been shown to improve innovation and problem solving, as people see and understand information in a range of different ways. Researchers have also found that accommodations made for neurodiverse staff members such as flexible hours or remote working can benefit neurotypical staff, too.The NAS say they have seen a rise in organisations reaching out to them to find out how they could better recruit autistic talent and neurodiverse workers, especially outside the IT sector. NAS offers suggestions for small changes, such as ensuring every meeting has an agenda. Agendas and similar tools can help neurodiverse staff focus on the relevant information needed and help people plan things in advance, making the meeting more accessible.“The things we suggest are good practice for any company, not just people with autism. They aren’t expensive, and are often easy quick wins,” says Maybank. “Employers need to recognise cultures in their organisation and to understand the unwritten rules of their organisation, to help people navigate that.”Maybank, who has been working with autistic people for the last decade, says she’d like to see more mandatory training for managers around neurodiversity and more buddying programmes to help people create better social links at work. She also feels employers should look at different progression routes for employees who may not want to become managers. But she says increased awareness of neurodiversity has improved understanding in workplaces. “People are becoming way more open about recognising different strands of autistic and neurodiverse behaviour,” she says. “People have a pre-conceived perception of what autism is, but it’s best to ask that person. People may be opposites of each other despite having the same condition.”Tailoring new technologyYet it’s not just increased awareness; remote working and new technologies are also helping to support workers who may previously have struggled to enter the workforce.Workplace tools including instant messaging platform Slack and list-making application Trello have improved communication for staff who may work outside a standard office environment. These tools can have additional benefits for people on the autistic spectrum, who might find things like face-to-face communication difficult.Ultranauts has made use of these technologies, as well as creating its own tools to suit staff needs.“A couples of years ago, a colleague on our team said they wished people came with a user manual,” says Anandan. So that’s exactly what they created, a self-authored guide called a ‘biodex’ which gives colleagues at Ultranauts all the information they need to find the best ways of working with a particular person.Being flexible about workplace set-up and tailoring company behaviours to cater for autistic needs has been a huge success for Ultranauts, which is beginning to share its experiences on best practice with other companies. Anandan says he’s learnt that making a workplace inclusive for neurodiverse colleagues hasn’t added friction or inefficiency, but allowed people who have largely been ignored by society to show their true talents. “We’ve shown over and over… that we’ve delivered results better because of the diversity of our team,” he says.Source: BBC Worklife 101