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Non-autistic employees’ perspectives on the implementation of an autism employment programme

journal contribution
posted on 04.08.2021, 23:18 by Jennifer SpoorJennifer Spoor, Simon BurySimon Bury, Darren HedleyDarren Hedley
Although employees’ attitudes towards an autism employment programme may impact its ultimate success, there is limited research examining the implementation of these programmes from the perspective of non-autistic employees (i.e. co-workers and managers). This study explored the implementation of an Australian-based supported autism employment programme, drawing on qualitative data collected from 32 employees working with autistic trainees in the programme. Thematic analysis revealed three main themes. The programme benefits theme suggested that the employment programme and autistic trainees were generally viewed positively, with the programme benefitting both the trainees and the organisation, and leading to greater understanding of autism. However, negative attitudes and perceptions of special treatment contributed to programme challenges, which paralleled challenges that have been observed with other disability and diversity programmes. The design of this specific programme led to concerns about workforce integration, such as reduced opportunity for social and work integration into the broader workplace. This research extends the research on diversity management in the context of autism employment and provides practical insights into barriers and facilitators associated with implementing autism employment programmes. Lay abstract: We asked 32 employees who work alongside autistic trainees for their thoughts about the autism employment programme that is running in their company. Specifically, we analysed their responses to understand how the employees perceived the autism employment programme’s implementation and outcomes. How employees within an organisation view diversity, and the nature of specific programmes to increase the inclusion of certain groups of individuals (e.g. autistic employees) in their organisation, can impact the success of these programmes. Research in other organisations has suggested that diversity perspectives that fully support the inclusion of people with diverse backgrounds in the organisation lead to better outcomes. Thematic analysis of the responses in this study revealed that the views of the employees fit three main themes: programme benefits, programme challenges and concerns about workforce integration. The programme benefits theme suggested that the autism employment programme was viewed positively. However, negative attitudes and perceptions of special treatment contributed to programme challenges, which were similar to challenges that have been observed with other disability and diversity programmes. The design of this specific programme led to concerns about workforce integration, such as reduced opportunity for social and work integration into the broader workplace. This research extends the research on diversity management in the context of autism employment, and it provides practical understanding into ways in which organisational-based autism employment programmes are more and less successful.

Funding

The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship and/or publication of this article: This research was facilitated by the La Trobe University Building Healthy Communities RFA Grants (1025872 and 3.2509.22.20) awarded to J.R.S. and D.H. S.M.B and D.H. were supported by funding from the DXC Technology and the ANZ Bank. D.H. was supported by the Australian Government Department of Human Services and is currently supported by a Suicide Prevention Australia Suicide Prevention Research Fellowship. S.M.B. was supported by the Untapped Group and the Department of Health and Human Services Victoria.

History

Publication Date

07/05/2021

Journal

Autism

Pagination

12p.

Publisher

Sage Publications

ISSN

1362-3613

Rights Statement

The Author reserves all moral rights over the deposited text and must be credited if any re-use occurs. Documents deposited in OPAL are the Open Access versions of outputs published elsewhere, this version is accepted for publication. Changes resulting from the publishing process may therefore not be reflected in this document. The final published version may be obtained via the publisher’s DOI. Please note that additional copyright and access restrictions may apply to the published version. Suggested Citation: Spoor JR, Bury SM, Hedley D. Non-autistic employees’ perspectives on the implementation of an autism employment programme. Autism. May 2021. doi:10.1177/13623613211012880

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