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Personal Perspective: Inclusion, It’s Not Just a Concept

Inclusion is not just a concept, but an action. We have the opportunity to practice inclusion regularly – and make our events, schools, workplaces, and communities accessible. Yet inclusion is lacking greatly at work and employment, as autism in the workplace is a growing trend and topic.

I’ve learned a lot about autism in the workplace over the past year. I officially became a lawyer last January, and made headlines as Florida’s first openly autistic attorney. While many thought it was the first time they encountered an attorney on the spectrum, I knew it wasn’t true at all.

Time and time again, I met others like me, but the keyword was “open.” I would hear from autistic law students and attorneys around the country, often afraid to disclose or be discriminated against in the job hunt, or who have been masking or hiding their autism diagnoses and traits at work to avoid being treated differently. After the past year interacting with a lot of lawyers, and even getting to attend Autism at Work alongside many international corporations participating in neurodiverse hiring efforts, I learned businesses in particular have a lot of learning to do to become more inclusive – for potential and existing employees.

In hiring, we are all often held to the same, arbitrary standards that measure traits that might not be necessary to a job, such as eye contact – which recruiters and interviewers judge to measure trustworthiness. We are expected to change ourselves and accommodate, rather than have a culture in interviews to allow us to showcase our talents, passion, or enthusiasm for potential jobs. Overcoming biases based on social skills or perceived deficits will allow us to get in the door and feel welcomed to begin with. Jobs are a two way street: the same jobs we want, must also want us. It is not as simple as people with disabilities will take the first job offered because it’s there – we want to be valued, and we want to value the work we do too.

Further, there is no one line of work that is valuable just for autistic people. We are not one type of employee, or capable of only a small selection of jobs. When I first began as a lawyer, it was assumed I was a technology genius. I would get assigned to certain technical tasks; while I was good at them, I was also skilled in research and writing about nuanced legal issues, or spotting small factual details in cases my supervisors might not have immediately picked up on. But people on the spectrum are not just whip-smart engineers, accountants, or software testers – we can work in marketing, law, the arts, retail, or pretty much anything. Nor are we people deserving of pity.

Sometimes, in addition to getting people in the door, businesses miss out on what the lawyers have shown me is more common: autistic people exist in business and are already working for you. Businesses should be creating a culture where it is safe and productive for employees to share their autism, ask for accommodations, and thrive – rather than feel trapped in a job, or afraid to leave out of fear that no other employer will want to hire us. Meeting autistic colleagues all over the country gave me a sense of community and belonging in a profession where I felt alone because I didn’t work alongside people like me daily. I have more experienced lawyers as mentors, and I am also a mentor to some of them when it comes to being your most authentic, open self and disclosure. Ultimately, empowerment and solidarity at work has been a game-changer in a profession that has much to do in the field of inclusion. Inclusion is giving autistic employees the opportunities to advance in leadership, connect with one another, and create an environment where others with disabilities or who are otherwise marginalized can find solidarity and support while knowing disclosure and asking for accommodations or help will not hurt careers or be seen as a perceived weakness – rather, our strength and humanity.

Written by Haley Moss

Diagnosed with autism at age 3, Moss graduated with her Juris Doctor from the University of Miami School of Law in 2018, and graduated from the University of Florida in 2015 with Bachelor degrees in Psychology and Criminology. Moss is a renowned visual pop artist and the author of Middle School: The Stuff Nobody Tells You About and A Freshman Survival Guide for College Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Stuff Nobody Tells You About. She also was the illustrator of and a contributor for the Autism Women’s Network anthology What Every Autistic Girl Wishes Her Parents Knew. Her writing has been featured in HuffPost, Teen Vogue, Elite Daily, The Mighty, and other websites and publications.

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Updated Incidence Rate

On April 26, 2018 the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) updated the incidence rate of autism among eight year olds in the United States. This updated report occurs every two years. The incidence rate released in April 2016 showed that 1 out of 68 children were living with an autism diagnosis. Today’s incidence rate show the rate has increased to 1 out of 59 eight year olds.
The Autism Society is committed to helping the 1 in the 59 through community, support, education, advocacy, and information & referral. The Autism Society works to create communities where each person with autism is valued, respected and provided the opportunity to maximize their quality of life each and every day. Click here to find a local affiliate in Wisconsin.
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Autism in Wisconsin 2017 Report Release

In 2016, the Autism Society of Wisconsin conducted a survey to learn more about the experiences and attitudes of individuals with autism, parents/caregivers of individuals with autism, and the professionals who work with families affected by autism. The purpose of the Autism in Wisconsin survey was to collect and compile data on the experiences of people affected by autism in Wisconsin to 1) influence Autism Society programming priorities 2) influence policies and legislation 3) document how experiences and attitudes change over time. As the first of its kind, the report below will serve as a baseline for future surveys and reports. We hope this information may be of interest to the autism community and that it will be useful for those working to increase the quality of life for those affected by autism.

 

View the Autism Report Here

 


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Service Area Update

Beginning in January of 2017, the Autism Society of Wisconsin is transitioning from a state affiliate to serving a portion of the state as defined by our new 53 county service area. The change is a result of a decision made by the national Autism Society. Our new service area begins with Vernon, Juneau, Adams, Marquette, Green Lake, Fond du Lac, and Sheboygan counties and extends up to the Northern border of Wisconsin. We are currently keeping the name, the Autism Society of Wisconsin, but may consider a name change in the future that better reflects our new service area.

The Autism Society of Wisconsin serves as the parent organization for five local affiliates, located throughout our service area and shown on the map. These affiliates will continue to offer the same wonderful programs and services they always have. As direct affiliates under the National Autism Society, the Autism Society of South Central Wisconsin and the Autism Society of Southeastern Wisconsin are responsible for serving the remaining counties in the southern part of the state.

The Autism Society of Wisconsin continues its commitment to making a difference in the lives of those affected by autism in Wisconsin. We hope to work with the other affiliates to continue our statewide initiatives such as hosting the Essay Contest, developing and distributing our Next Steps guides, and working collaboratively on advocacy issues.

The Autism Society of Wisconsin looks forward to our future, focusing on our new 53 county service area. We’re excited to work with our local affiliates and other local partners to build capacity in our communities. Please give us a call if you have any questions.

 

Service Area Contact Info