Neurodiversity, Autistica and the Importance of Disabilities Pride Month

I am pleased to be able to share a four-part series on Neurodiversity, focusing on how we can improve the recruitment process and create a more inclusive workplace. The series is designed to be read by those who would like to learn more about neurodiverse individuals and want to better support them in their companies. Furthermore, the series is designed to offer some very clear and practical ways for decision-makers to implement strategies to attract neurodiverse talent to their companies. The three-part series will include:


Neurodiversity, Autistica and Disabilities Pride Month

Barriers faced during the recruitment process

Inclusivity in the workplace

Benefits of representation


Recently, I was able to meet with Rebecca Sterry who is the Director of External Affairs for Autistica, a fantastic UK charity that focuses on facilitating and funding scientific research projects to improve the understanding of autism, its causes, and potential interventions. Autistica collaborates with autistic individuals and their families, researchers, and professionals to drive forward research initiatives that address the most pressing issues faced by the autistic community.



Rebecca joined Autistica motivated to apply research to practice. She has now been a part of the charity for 8 years, joining as the Head of Communications and progressing to her current post as Director of External Affairs. Her impact with the charity is evident and she has played a key role in sharing the latest research and evidence-based resources, such as the recently launched Autistica Employers Guide to Neurodiversity.



Autistica have six goals to achieve by the year 2030:


•   All autistic people will have proven support from day one
•   The employment rate for autistic people will double
•   Autistic people will have proven treatments for anxiety
•   Public spaces will be more accessible for neurodivergent people
•   Every autistic adult will be offered a yearly, tailored health check
•   Attitudes to autistic people will change



Why did we meet?



Disabilities Pride was celebrated for the first time in the UK in 2017. Since then, it has grown and the month of July is now a month which celebrates, raises awareness, and highlights the voice of those with disabilities.


I am proud to say that the company I work for prioritises diversity.  We have employed people with disabilities and have benefited and grown as a company because of these hires. But we are no way near perfect as an inclusive employer, there is plenty more we could be doing.


Rebecca works in the third sector, which, surprisingly to most, is one of the least diverse sectors. There are very limited statistics focusing on the third sector and those who have been hired by Not-for-Profits, however, the following data illustrates the reality across the UK job market:


•   In the UK autistic people are the least likely to be employed of any other disabled group. Just 21.7% of autistic people are in employment.
•   Half of the disabled people (52.1%) aged 16 to 64 years in the UK were employed in 2020 compared with around 8 in 10 (81.3%) of non-disabled people. Of that group, just 21.7% of autistic people were in employment.
•   64% of employers still admit to having ‘little’ or ‘no’ understanding of neurodiverse conditions.
•   60% of those with ADHD felt they had lost a job due to their neurodiversity
•   52% of those with dyslexia have experienced discrimination in the interview process



Meeting with Rebecca Sterry


What are the current projects being run by Autistica?


Research on employment with UCL 


Autistica has worked with UCL for the past year to understand the barriers to employment for autistic people and possible solutions. Some of the topics being explored include challenges related to disclosure of autism diagnoses at work, reasonable adjustments in the workplace, and career progression. By working closely with UCL, Autistica is developing strategies and tools that can help bridge these gaps and create a more inclusive hiring and working environment.




Measuring and changing attitudes towards autism


One significant gap in knowledge is the lack of understanding and acceptance of autism among the general public and within various professional settings. Many people still hold misconceptions or rely on stereotypes when it comes to autism, which can result in exclusion, discrimination, or limited opportunities for autistic people.


Autistica are taking an evidence-based approach to changing attitudes, by developing an the Autistica Attitudes Index. This index will measure attitudes and understanding of autism over time and will help us to understand where research, policy and campaigns should focus their attention. By fostering a more inclusive and accepting society, we can create world where autistic people can thrive and contribute fully.




Campaigning for better support


Policy work plays a crucial role in ensuring equal opportunities and better support and services for autistic people. Autistica works closely with policymakers within the government and NHS as well as campaigning publicly to encourage wider society to be more inclusive and supportive for autistic people.


Autistica are working with various government departments to inform policy change and evidence-based services, in the fields of health and education. They are also working with the Department for Work and Pensions on a major review of autism and employment, with a report due to be released in early 2024 which will provide a raft of recommendations and best practice examples for employers and recruiters across the UK.




What are new developments and projects you have coming up?




The Autistica Neurodiversity Employers index – due early 2024


One of the most exciting things Autistica is working on is the Autsitica Neurodiversity Employers Index (NDEI). As part of their 2030 goals to double the employment rate for autistic people they are developing a definitive assessment of neuroinclusion for organisations. The Autistica Neurodiversity Employers Index will provide a benchmark for organisations to evaluate themselves based on exemplary practices, along with suggestions for enhancement, and an annual awards initiative.


The Index is an evidence-based annual measurement that captures every stage of the employment journey, and both diversity & inclusion.


Other diversity and inclusion measures like this already exist for gender and ethnicity, but there is nothing that exists for neurodiversity.


Rebecca and Autistica are encouraging companies to test the pilot. Find out more and register your interest:


As part of the process, the charity has set up an awards system to celebrate the companies that are adopting an inclusive hiring process, as well as fostering inclusivity within their company. As highlighted before, the awards system is designed to celebrate those that are leading on this and not to lambast companies who don’t have the same level of support in place.


As part of Disability Pride Month, it was fantastic to speak to Rebecca who is clearly very passionate about the charity she works for, who is dedicated to achieving their 2030 goals.


Shining the spotlight on charities that are committed to improving the lives of those who are neurodiverse is perfect reading for this month.


Given the content from our meeting, there will be three further pieces that highlight the following:



•   Main Barriers for people who are neurodiverse
•   Benefits of working with people who are neurodiverse
•   Benefits of representation



Feel free to contact Stuart for further information or insight on the above!

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