Each year, this time rolls around and gives me a chance to pause and reflect. The most important work that I have done in my career stems from an interest one man had in ensuring that companies could create opportunities in their workplace for people with disabilities (and ensuring this happened with a favorable budget implication). His passion stemmed from having a son with autism.
When I started at Walgreens, I knew very little about Autism and unaware of whether I had met anyone on the Autism spectrum. That was in 2006. Since then I have had the opportunity to meet many individuals who are on the spectrum, many who prefer to be labeled “Autistic”. Getting to know and work with those individuals was a great gift and definitely built my awareness, but in addition, there were 2 books and one movie that truly helped me to better understand what it is like to have Autism and therefore, help me feel more comfortable in interacting with Autistic individuals.
Today is World Autism Awareness Day, April is Autism Awareness Month and today, we encourage everyone to “light it up blue” as a signal of support in building awareness and inclusion.
In that spirit, I encourage you to check out two books and one movie to help you better understand this pocket of disability:
I was Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet was a very impactful book for me. It gives a glimpse into the way Daniel has been influenced by his Autism. I will always remember when finishing that book, that I finally felt he had “cracked the code” for me to better understand what Autism is like, and what it feels like to be autistic and what it feels like to interact with a world that is not designed for people with Autism.
Loud Hands: Autistic People Speaking by Julia Bascom is a collection written by and for Autistic people. This video was created early on during the Loud Hands Project. I found the video and book incredibly informative and have passed it on to others many times.
Temple Grandin is an HBO movie starring Claire Danes and telling the story of Temple Grandin, one of the most well-known individuals with Autism. Temple also has written many books and I have found Emergence very helpful to better understand Autism and Autistic people also.
I hope you will explore any and all of these resources and increase your understanding and awareness of Autism and Autistic people in an effort to increase your confidence and comfort in working with them as colleagues, managers and employees. Even if you have some familiarity, we all have room to increase. April 2 is a day for all of us to be reminded of the need for this awareness and level of comfort, but I hope you gain some knowledge and confidence that carries you through the entire year!