Saturday 2 April marks World Autism Awareness (WAA) Day. At QinetiQ, we’re creating a company where our differences are not only embraced but make us stronger; a place where we can connect with each other and benefit from varied experiences.
The United Nations has established 2 April as World Autism Awareness Day to increase public understanding, as recognition and diagnosis of autism and other neurodiversity increases. Some prefer to call it Autism Acceptance Day, and some choose not to recognise the day at all, viewing autism as simply a natural part of life, either theirs or that of family and friends. Whatever your view, WAA Day is an opportunity to recognise and appreciate the extraordinary skills and qualities of people who are not ‘neuro-typical’. On this day, we need to listen to the voices and experience of the real experts; autistic people themselves.
This year’s theme of WAA Day is ‘education’, and to acknowledge the day we put a number of questions to our employee-led Neurodiversity network to understand their experiences within education and how it influenced their later career path.
Chloe Peet, Associate Scientist, shared:
“I was only diagnosed autistic after I had left all formal education (aged 26). However, education continues your entire life, not just while you are sat in a classroom. There is learning on the job, formal training and every time you start a new project you have to educate yourself on the work that has to be done.
Now I have an understanding of my brain, the way I process information and the blockers that can get in the way, I know how best to equip myself for these scenarios. This is not a process that is limited to neurodiverse individuals, but for me my diagnosis gave me clarity and a starting point.”
One of our Principal Scientists, who has an autistic son, shared:
“As a parent of an autistic child (now adult), you have to continually examine your own communication skills. Understanding just how literally our son took comments, for example. Even after 20 years, we still are learning and educating ourselves as to how to communicate more effectively. The most recent discovery was to stop asking “why” so much, as his response would be related to how he perceived the state; “why is someone sad?” would illicit the response “because she is crying”, asking him what made them sad has a much better success rate in getting the underlying cause.
I share this because we can all be better at understanding differing communication styles within the workplace. For those who have done Insights or Myers Briggs, it’s helpful to know if someone likes a lot of detail, or just top-line info; whether they like the opportunity to respond immediately, or time to consider. It’s the same with our neurodiverse colleagues. If we better understand, then chances are our communication and working relationships will be more effective and more productive.”
Tim Goldstein is a Neurodiverse Communications Specialist within the technical industry in the USA. He is also a neurodiversity advocate. His view is that for many people like himself, deep concentration is almost their default state of being. “A big advantage we bring to technical work,” he says “is the ability to focus for hours and hours at a level beyond what most people can do.”
Steve Fitz-Gerald, Group Managing Director Maritime and Land, adds: “We have previously discussed and celebrated neurodiversity within QinetiQ itself and within the defence and technical industry. We continue to do so with pride, as the contribution made by our neurodiverse colleagues, both within our company and to the wider business, is exceptional.”
Together, we are working to create an inclusive culture.