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Why Entrepreneurship Holds the Key to Solving the Autism Employment Crisis

Discussion in 'Autism Spectrum News, Events and Research' started by AGXStarseed, Feb 12, 2016.

  1. AGXStarseed

    AGXStarseed Well-Known Member

    Jun 13, 2013
    (Not written by me)

    When my brother Andrew was 22 years old, it became painfully apparent that he might never lead the type of adult life we all hope for: a life full of close relationships, a career he felt valued in and the income he needed to pursue his hobbies. Why? Because he was born with autism.

    Andrew and the 80 percent of his peers diagnosed with autism struggle to find employment. This statistic riveted my family. The thought of Andrew rotting away in his bedroom playing video games all day with no friends or sense of purpose propelled us to action.

    My father and I founded Rising Tide Car Wash as a means of creating a community for Andrew and showing the world just how capable people with autism really are. Through a few years of hard work and an amazing team of partners, we've built a business that employs 35 individuals with autism -- 80 percent of our staff. Not only is this business creating a community for Andrew, but it's making money and destroying the competition.

    Through this journey, we've gotten to know hundreds of individuals with autism. We've discovered what we believe to be the root cause of the autism employment crisis. Our society views autism as a disability that requires sympathy instead of a valuable diversity. We've been taught to feel sorry for people with autism, which creates a really challenging stigma to overcome when looking for work. How can we expect a business owner, who depends on their employees to produce, to hire someone who they think is inferior?

    The good news is that there's a group of people can do something about this -- autism entrepreneurs. These changemakers represent the innovators along the adoption curve -- the folks who can build businesses from the ground up around the natural talents of people with autism and create a critical mass of success stories. They will make it easier for the early adopters within existing companies (likely in the industries these entrepreneurs enter) to make a case for harnessing this advantage within their businesses. Only after this tipping point is reached can we expect the mainstream business community to act with any real enthusiasm.

    To become an autism entrepreneur, you must start by:
    1. Knowing your community: When you know one person with autism, you only know one person with autism. Keep this in mind when designing a business dedicated to employing this group. Spend time in autism classrooms, with job coaches at employment sites and in social groups to get to know the community you aim to serve and to identify skill sets that could be used as an advantage for a business.
    2. Doing what works: Most entrepreneurs need to innovate a new business model to be successful. As an autism entrepreneur, you need to identify existing business models that work and design a way to employ individuals with autism in them. With an eye towards leveraging existing business models, you will find that autism can be a powerful differentiator to many customers.
    3. Looking beyond the interests of your loved one with autism to find the underlying skillsets: As parents, caregivers and friends, we want our loved ones with autism to be happy. It's easy to become myopically focused on their apparent interests to meet that goal. It's typically not a good idea to go down this road, however, because interests aren't the foundation of a good business -- skills are. My brother always wanted to be a museum curator. He memorized tour scripts, museum layouts and schedules. But that role typically requires an advanced degree that Andrew won't be able to achieve with his intellectual disability. That said, his interest in the museum shows his skills for memorization, attention to detail and love of structured environments -- all attributes we designed Rising Tide around.
    People like Dan Selec, Rajesh Anandan, Mark Wafer and Gregg Ireland have already begun to prove that this model will be successful. Thorkil Sonne, Founder of Specialisterne has shown that individuals with Asperger's make excellent software testers. His story has inspired intrapreneurs (early adopters) within companies like SAP, Microsoft and HP to hire people on the spectrum.

    This group isn't the only champion of this movement. There's an upwelling of people beginning their entrepreneurial journey simply because they believe the best way to support their loved one with autism is to start a business with them. People like Valerie Herskowitz and Silvia Planas Prats are building businesses right here in South Florida. We want to nurture this movement by providing a road map to build businesses like ours. We firmly believe that the group of dedicated self-advocates, family members and caregivers hold the potential to change the way we view autism.

    Thomas D'Eri is the COO and Co-Founder of Rising Tide Car Wash, an award-winning social enterprise that has designed one of the only financially viable and operationally proven business models to employ individuals with autism. He also recently launched Rising Tide University, which is dedicated to helping nurture this movement. He is a Miami Herald 20Under40 winner and Unreasonable Institute Fellow.

    Follow Young Entrepreneur Council on Twitter: www.twitter.com/YEC

    SOURCE: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/young-entrepreneur-council/why-entrepreneurship-hold_b_9201526.html
    • Winner Winner x 1
  2. Bellatrix

    Bellatrix Space Left Deliberately Blank

    Sep 3, 2015
    I don't believe that this is the cause of the problem. Potential employers never ask "Do you have autism?" during interviews, because they really don't need to, because most of us do poorly in interviews anyway (for example, we may not look the interviewer in the eye often enough to prevent them from thinking there was something wrong with us). Whenever I was hired to commence work with a new company or government department, and the paperwork had to be filled out, if there were any questions on any of the forms about disability I would tick the 'No' box. No one knew I had this problem, because I never mentioned it to anyone, but later on in the office or factory the problems would accumulate, and most of them had to do with the unwritten rules of social interaction, which I have never understood.

    The reason, I believe, why such a large percentage of us are unemployed is due to the fact that many of us simply cannot tolerate inefficiency, waste, gossip (which is a form of waste, in this case of time), incompetence, and bureaucracy, combined with our tendency to be open and honest about the people we work for and with. Most people simply don't like to be told the truth, they can't handle it, and when the time comes for 'redundancies' we will always be the first to go, because middle and upper management don't want to be exposed by us as being the fools that most of them are.
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  3. unsurewhattoname

    unsurewhattoname Well-Known Member

    Jul 22, 2015
    I am, or I'd like to think anyway, that I'm pretty tolerant. If people are doing their own thing that doesn't directly affect me in any way then that doesn't bother me. So if people like to gossip and it's not somewhere I'm trying to concentrate then it's fine. I also know enough social skills to know that being rude in telling the truth when it was not asked for will not go well. For example I will not go up to someone and tell them their faults. It may be the truth that they're fat, but will I say that even though it's true? No, because it's rude to do that. So no, my problem in finding employment is not in this. I'm autistic, yes, but an asshole for the sake of being an asshole? No. Nobody has ever thought I am rude because I try my best to be nice and polite to others. They may think I'm shy, even retarded, but they will not think I'm rude. People have feelings, you know? Telling then the cold harsh truth constantly will destroy them. There's no need for it. That's just plain rude. They can't handle the truth because they have feelings and insecurities. Have a little respect.
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2016