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Expert Name: Karen Chung
Expert Title: Karen Chung
Company Name:  Special Learning, Inc.
Company URL: www.special-learning.com
Short Bio: Karen Chung obtained her bachelor's degree in accounting from Northern Illinois University and master's degree in Business Management from Northwestern University. In 2010, she co-founded Special Learning, Inc., a company dedicated to becoming the global leader for autism, special needs and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) solutions by leveraging technology as educational resources. As an entrepreneur and investor, Karen has had active involvement over the past 15 years in several businesses in diverse industries including executive search, investment banking, real estate development and high-end retail.
Steps Toward Success: Preparing individuals with ASD for the workplace

More and more in the news, whether on the front pages of traditional media or newsfeeds of social media, we often see stories on “autism in the workplace” or companies sharing their success stories of employing those on the autism spectrum. While the uptick in awareness is most likely appreciated by the autism community as it brings to the forefront this increasingly pressing issue, at best, we have only seen incremental improvements overall.

Ultimately, this is a systemic issue that is far beyond the power of any single organization to affect overall change. A critical element is to get buy-in from influential key stakeholders committed to helping the community resolve this global problem. 

As of now, the challenges of placing individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities into the job market are great – but it’s not insurmountable.  As professionals, who work with and provide care to those with autism, it is now more important than ever to focus on changing the mindset of those in corporate to one that embraces and welcomes this challenge as part of their global workforce diversity initiatives.

Approached in a systematic manner, designed to generate positive outcomes, both private and public sector employers stand to realize not only significant economic benefits but also an opportunity to leave an imprint and lasting legacy of their contribution to society. 

There is one good thing about this challenge: Not only is giving this group of vocation seeking individuals a greater chance to find fulfilling employment good for the individual and the community, it’s good for the business, too. In fact, Autism Speaks found 92 percent of Americans view companies hiring people with disabilities more favorably than those companies that do not. Showing that the business cares not only about the bottom line but also about the success and happiness of individuals within the community. Companies can cash in on the feel-good factor from the public.

This creates a win-win situation for companies and for those with autism looking to enter the workforce. As Elizabeth Preston so eloquently said in Spectrum, “…unemployed and underemployed adults with autism represent not just a societal problem, but an untapped labor force with unique potential.”

In hopes of better preparing you to train the next autistic individual for the workforce, we present a job skill matrix that matches possible jobs to attributes that are required to successfully carry them out. We’ve specifically included a description of some of the special skills those with ASD would bring to the table.

Please click here to view the Job Skill Matrix.

These days, most hiring managers are looking for a few key traits in potential workers: someone who shows up, every day, on time, ready to work; someone who follows directions; someone who takes the job seriously; and someone who believes in the work that they do. Now, while that may seem like a tall order to some, it is definitely achievable.

An added benefit of hiring someone with autism is the potential to cut down on workforce gossip. Employees with autism will likely have little to no interest in engaging in the social dramas of other employees. Rather, they will be more inclined to focusing on their work and meeting requirements, whereas other employees often engage in off-task behaviors by engaging in office gossip or drama.  Considering candidates with autism for specific positions, not because one feels sorry for them or to meet corporate diversity goals, but taking the time to learn about the unique skills and characteristics that people with autism possess that makes them exceptional candidate for jobs, is the right way for employers to approach this opportunity.

Given the shortage of qualified workers in the marketplace, finding a pool of potential hires – those who are thankful for opportunities and motivated to do everything in their power to please – will give employers, that recognize individuals with ASD are valuable corporate assets, a competitive advantage.