By Patty Pacelli
Our son Trevor was diagnosed with a high functioning form of autism in kindergarten. From very early on, we noticed some things about Trevor that were not typical in other children his age. His ability to focus on tasks was extraordinary. He was (and still is) very schedule-oriented. His reliability in doing household chores without being reminded was a thing most parents only dream of. Now a junior in college, Trevor continues to learn to leverage his strengths to help him build relationships, get good grades, and prepare himself as a functioning member of society.
The autism statistics are staggering. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that one in 68 children in America is somewhere on the autism spectrum, with autism being five times more likely to exist in boys than girls. Yet only 53 percent of young adults with autism are gainfully employed. Those with autism have some amazing gifts, talents and ideas that can materially contribute to a more effective and successful workplace. Unfortunately, many leaders don’t know how to create an environment where an autistic employee can thrive and drive real bottom-line results. That’s why I wrote Six-Word Lessons for Autism Friendly Workplaces.
As leaders, it is imperative that you not only create a work environment that fosters creativity and diversity but you also create an environment that delivers results. Key to achieving both of these goals is the idea of employers making their workplaces “friendly” to employees with autism so the employee can in turn deliver results. It’s not about giving them simple jobs because they feel sorry for them or to meet some diversity goal, it’s about hiring them because they truly meet a need in their business and possess the skills needed to excel in their job. We’ve seen first-hand how an autism-friendly workplace contributes to a more effective and balanced workplace. It’s incumbent on today’s leaders to create an environment where employers and autistic employees not just survive, but thrive.
Six-Word Lessons for Autism Friendly Workplaces discusses specific qualities that autistic individuals bring to workplaces, and how businesses benefit from these qualities. The book’s 100 lessons cover a wide range of topics including interview practices for the employer, being aware of unique autistic traits, accommodations and social expectations for workers with autism. Following is a sampling of some of the lessons included:
Lesson 69. They work when nobody is watching.
When Trevor worked in maintenance, his coworkers commented that they always saw him doing heavy landscape work outside in the heat. Trevor didn’t know anyone saw him, but he nevertheless worked hard when alone, never slacking or resting. It was that focus and commitment to do whatever he was asked that made him a model employee.
Lesson 75. Autistic individuals can bring enormous creativity.
Autistic people’s minds are wired differently, and their imaginations can be extreme. Managers should take advantage of this when looking for creative ideas or new ways to solve problems. If they give autistic team members opportunities to share their ideas, those ideas can lead to brilliant new concepts.
Not only should employers be aware of autistic employees’ strengths, they should also learn about some of their challenges, and what to expect and how to accommodate them for better productivity.
Lesson 37. Let the applicant demonstrate his skills.
Offering a practice activity at the interview, such as proofing a sample document for an editing position, may be the best way for someone with autism to demonstrate his abilities, and can help employers make a more accurate hiring decision. It can be hard for autistic people to “sell themselves” and put their skills and attributes into words, even if they are excellent candidates.
Lesson 43. Accommodations help employer and employee succeed.
In the ideal scenario, giving autistic employees accommodations would help the company run more effectively while enabling autistic employees to be productive, leading to better products and services and more profit. All parties should work together to allow autistic employees to be productive without sacrificing the work environment for others.
Lesson 44. Options for accommodations make a difference.
Specifically, give all onboarding employees a survey or menu of options, asking their preferences for things like sound, light, physical work space, type of communication desired, methods for performance appraisals and more. This allows autistic employees to simply state their preferences along with everyone else, without feeling different or singled out.
As leaders, creating an environment where high-functioning autistic employees can thrive is more than demonstrating social responsibility and diversity. It also yields the business results that leaders need to not just survive, but thrive.
For additional information about the author or to purchase the book, visit www.autismfriendlyworkplace.com.
About the Author
Patty Pacelli is an editor, author, entrepreneur, wife and mother of two adult children, one with an autism spectrum disorder. She promotes autism awareness by serving on the board of directors of the Seattle Children’s Autism Guild. She wrote this book to help adults with autism, like her son Trevor, achieve their career dreams and contribute their exceptional talents to the workforce. Patty is also the author of Six-Word Lessons to Look Your Best.
By Trevor Pacelli
If there was ever a movie that contained a highly innovative style of animation that has rarely been done before, in which it takes things that are already familiar and presents them in a totally new way, while at the same time telling an extraordinarily well written story, then that film would be Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s The Lego Movie.
The overall plot of the film is about a generic Lego man, Emmett (Chris Pratt), who lives in a Lego world as a construction worker. He always follows the instructions of how to live his life and although happy, he is also ignored and overlooked by others. But then he happens upon a special device that holds the secrets of the Lego world, and finds that he is in fact part of a prophecy destined to stop the world’s leader (Will Ferrell) from freezing everyone with glue. Along with him, he’s got the aid of secret agent Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), the wizard Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), and Batman (Will Arnett) to fulfill the prophecy.
When I first saw the trailer for this film, I was actually not looking forward to it. My immediate thought was that it was going to be a kid-targeted 90-minute commercial loaded with lame jokes and potty humor. But fortunately, it did not contain any of that.
Contrary to all the branded characters making cameos (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Gandalf, Dumbledore, Abe Lincoln, and many others) this film did not feel like a toy ad at all. The supporting characters were used wisely without calling too much attention to themselves. While it would be very tempting for attention to be called to the brand itself and subliminally persuade kids to buy the Lego products, it certainly was not exploited here.
The animation in this film is breathtaking to look at. It was accomplished through a mixture of stop-motion animation and computer animation, and the two just flew together flawlessly. The animators showed the mind-blowing capacity to create heavily detailed Lego landscapes including robust cities, rough oceans, never-ending desert plains, and a tower that seems to never end in the sky. Everything- even the puffs of smoke coming out of the cars are made of Lego bricks. I said before that this animation style is highly innovative, but it is also a flawless piece of work worthy of the film historian’s textbook. If this movie does not revolutionize the film industry, I don’t know what will.
Most animated films that I’ve seen have had poorly executed product-driven stories with annoying characters and unfunny one-liners. But The Lego Movie has in fact a surprisingly smart screenplay with very memorable characters. Though this movie typically has a very fast pace, there are slower, more intimate moments where the character’s emotions and interactions are delved into. In addition, this movie actually has a message. Both kids and parents alike can pick up the significant message that everyone, no matter how average or boring they feel, are unique in their own special way. Despite what everyone may tell you, nobody is a nobody.
In addition to having a stupendously well written story, The Lego Movie is also one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in theaters in a long time. Many gags were used that played around with the fact that everyone is a Lego character. For example, when Emmett is going through is morning routine, and he does jumping jacks to start his day. Since he has fixed joints that only move forward and backward, and not side-to-side, he does jumping jacks in a very “Lego-like” fashion. Other funny moments include characters taking human objects, mispronouncing their names, and a cameo by Han Solo and Lando Calrissian on the Millennium Falcon. Overall, the jokes follow a much more witty style of humor that takes full advantage of the fantasy setting.
However, there are some downsides to this film that the viewer should be aware of. One drawback is the excessive use of violence, including lasers going off, things blowing up, lots of really fast vehicle chases, and the death of a major character. But there is absolutely no blood or gore and the many action sequences have an incredibly cartoony feel to them (it is a Lego world after all, don’t expect it to look realistic). The content appeals mainly to younger boys, who upon seeing these excessive action sequences will want their parents to buy them more toy racecars and action heroes. It’s still a good idea to take caution with younger audiences, as the incredibly fast pace and excessive violence may be too much for them.
In conclusion, The Lego Movie is a monumental film in the era of digital effects and the recent surplus of toy merchandising for young boys. The special effects used to create the highly imaginative Lego world is a real treat for the eyes that has been missing for quite some time. This is not just another animated film, it sets a whole new standard for humor, writing, and creative storytelling that other animation companies should start to consider. I absolutely recommend this movie to anyone aged seven and up. Grown-ups, don’t feel awkward seeing it if you don’t have any kids, because The Lego Movie has the right dose of nostalgia and maturity that will keep adults as equally entertained as any child.
Inspiration for Life with Autism
This blog has a variety of articles about people living life with autism, and topics and ideas that can help in the journey. Guest bloggers are welcome. Inspired by Trevor, a young adult film critic, photographer and college graduate on the autism spectrum.