As the head of Specialisterne Ireland, Peter Brabazon is responsible for helping thousands of individuals with autism to access employment.
The world of work should really be accessible to everyone who wants to participate, but history would tell us that this certainly has not been the case.
When Thorkil Sonne was the technical director of a Danish telecommunications company, his three-year-old son Lars was diagnosed with autism. As Lars grew, Sonne noticed that his son possessed abilities that he sought in his own employees but seldom could find.
In many cases, people with autism will often have so much to add to a working environment, but yet may struggle to find employment due to how the traditional interview format works against them. So, Sonne founded Specialisterne in 2004, an organisation that aims to develop hiring and management practices to better facilitate finding work for those on the autism spectrum.
For Specialisterne, the metaphor of the dandelion is used to explain the nucleus of the work. Dandelions crop up frequently on otherwise manicured lawns. They’re hugely useful plants but often get unfairly designated as ‘weeds’ or otherwise inconvenient due to the context in which they spring up. The company believes this same issue of perception befalls those on the autism spectrum: people are quick to make assumptions, and this in turn throws up massive barriers.
“There are so many people who have a normal or higher intelligence that are limited by our mental perception of people who are different,” Sonne said.
Peter Brabazon is head of Specialisterne’s Irish arm. He estimates that close to 15,000 people in Ireland with autism could be suitable for a range of roles in IT and related areas, doing the type of work that would play to their strengths.
At Inspirefest this year, he will take to the stage to address accessibility to employment for those with autism and how he believes the sci-tech ecosystem could benefit if people opened their minds a little more.