World Autism Awareness Day falls on Friday 2 April. Autism is a lifelong developmental disability which affects how people communicate and interact with the world around them.
You cannot see autism; it's a hidden disability. Here in the UK, around 700,000 adults and children are on the autism spectrum.
We are dedicating the week commencing Monday, 28 March, to autism awareness with lots of interesting and insightful content shared throughout the week.
The 'Autism Employment Gap'
The theme of our campaign this year is 'The Autism Employment Gap'. Shockingly, only 22% of autistic adults are in any employment. That’s compared to 81% of non-disabled people and 52% of disabled people. This is the lowest employment rate of any disability category.
Our campaign seeks to increase awareness of this issue, examines why this is happening and provides useful information about reasonable adjustments that employers can make to make our workforces more inclusive.
Take part in the Sunflower Autism Employment Survey
If you consider yourself autistic or on the autism spectrum, we'd like to hear from you. Tell us about your experiences seeking employment, work environment, employers and colleagues in our confidential Autism Employment survey. These questions should only take you a few minutes to complete.
So what are we doing?
Falling through the cracks - the pool of untapped autistic talent
Many of us have probably heard of the disability employment gap - the gap that exists between the percentage of all people employed, 81.3%*, and the percentage of disabled people in employment, currently 52.1%*. That's a big disparity. You may not be aware of how wide the gap gets when you look at the statistics for people on the autism spectrum. According to the Office for National Statistics' Outcomes for disabled people in the UK report, only 21.7%* of autistic people are in any form of employment, lowest employment rate of any disability category. That's not a gap; that's a chasm.
Supporting 't pASSt
't pASSt is a support centre for autism in the Geel region of Belgium. The charity provides an environment where young people and adults on the autism spectrum can meet, spend time together and talk about their feelings and experiences. 't pASSt has created a safe place where everyone is encouraged to share their encounters as they seek to improve their combined knowledge and understanding of autism.
't pASSt's activities are supported by a team of volunteers and autism coaches – auti-coaches. Auti-coaches support individual and group counseling sessions. 't pASSt qualitative support is extremely important, and it systematically uses creative working methods to promote social and communication skills, self-confidence and personal growth.
Belonging and being able to be who you are - that is what 't pASSt is all about.
Throughout April, we will donate the proceeds from the sale of every Autism, Autism Spectrum and Make it Your Own – Autism card to 't pASSt. These cards are available in our online store by clicking the button below.
It's okay to be different
On Sunday 28 March 'It’s okay to be different' airs in our podcast, Sunflower Stories.
Maria Cook is very candid about the multitude of hidden disabilities that her son, Ryan, has. They include autism, developmental delay, significant learning disabilities, sensory processing disorder, sensory modulation difficulties, hyperacusis and synesthesia.
Maria is Ryan’s champion and voice as she has had to navigate the various diagnosis’ and adapt to the challenges of Ryan’s conditions. Nothing is impossible for this family, and we get a real insight into their lives and what they have overcome together.
But what about the gap?
We end the week discussing the Autism Employment Gap with two organisations that are actively trying to facilitate change, Purple and Employment Horizons. This is set to be a must-listen-to conversation – access it here on or after Sunday, 4 April.
The Sunflower Stories are short films where we speak to some of our Sunflower wearers about how the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower has had a positive impact on their daily life. The below Sunflower Stories collection are conversations we've had with autistic people and their families.
However big or small, your help moves us closer to a society where the autism employment gap is smaller, which can make a huge difference to autistic people as well as increasing diversity in the workplace.
Our wearers, members, and supporters are the voice of Hidden Disabilities Sunflower, and we have put together a couple of ways you can help us to get the word out!
Free to share
Here are some suggested tweets to share on your social media channels:
It's #WorldAutismAwarenessDay. You cannot see autism; it's a hidden disability. Shockingly, only 22% of autistic adults are at work. Let's remove barriers to employment & reduce the disability employment gap. @sunflwrlanyards https://bit.ly/3tGno85
Today is #WorldAutsimAwarenessDay when the World comes together to raise awareness of the hurdles that autistic people face every day. @sunflwrlanyards speak to some of their wearers about autism https://bit.ly/3eVZQI7
What do you really know about autism? @sunflwrlanyards speak to some of their autistic wearers and their families about autism for #WorldAutismAwarenessDay https://bit.ly/3eVZQI7
Share your Autism Sunflower story
While it’s easy to feel that your story can’t possibly make a meaningful difference, the truth is that it can influence individuals and the wider community. Whether you or someone you care about is autistic and wears the Sunflower, you can empower others and encourage people to support them by sharing your experience.
Check out the Sunflower Stories and Conversations, and if they have an impact on you, share them with your friends and family.
If you want to share your experience, get in touch with us by emailing us here.
Founded in 1957, Employment Horizons is the premier not-for-profit agency providing comprehensive employment, training and job placement services to persons with disabilities throughout Northern, New Jersey. We serve individuals with a variety of developmental, physical and mental health challenges, all with common goals to work, earn a paycheck and be self-sufficient!
As a 501(c)(3) social business enterprise, Employment Horizons provides high-quality, competitively priced services to the business community. At the same time, we are furthering our mission “To assist people with barriers to employment to achieve their vocational objectives and establish self-sufficiency in the community.” Thousands of employment opportunities were created for the individuals served through partnerships formed with the business community.
Our dedicated staff, many of who have been employed with Employment Horizons for decades, count it a joy to help those served to identify, obtain, train and thrive at the jobs of their choice! For more information, please go to the website: www.ehorizons.org
Purple is a disability organisation which supports businesses on their journey to become more disability inclusive through a range of training, access auditing and wider consultancy services. Purple believes the way to address the inequality for disabled people is to show the value they bring and can sustain for organisations as consumers and employees. Their vision is to enable organisations to blend kindness and commerciality to make disability inclusion the norm.
For businesses who require more in-depth and bespoke Hidden Disabilities Sunflower training than provided on our Hidden Disabilities training videos, we have partnered with Purple to offer this additional support to our clients working with disabled people. Purple can provide virtual training solutions, including webinars, online workshops, one-to-one coaching and e-tutorials, and face-to-face services.
To find out more, please visit: www.wearepurple.org.uk/business