A collaboration between DXC Technology, the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited (ANZ) and the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre (OTARC) has developed a world-first toolkit to assist workplaces to support the mental health of autistic employees.
Over one in 100 Australians are on the autism spectrum. They represent a diverse group of people who differ in how they communicate and relate to other people, as well as interact and make sense of the world around them.
And while employment programs have been successful in helping autistic people to gain work, mental health challenges continue to be a significant barrier to sustainable employment.
DXC Technology (whose Dandelion Program supports people on the autism spectrum to gain employment and pursue careers in information technology) and ANZ Bank (whose Spectrum Program is committed to recognising the talents of autistic people and shaping a workplace where they can thrive) determined that a mental health toolkit to support neurodiverse people was needed, and enlisted OTARC to partner in its development.
The result: Supporting a Neurodiverse Workforce: A Mental Health and Well-Being Resource and Training Package. The toolkit contains information and strategies for autistic employees, their employers, support workers, mentors and colleagues to help manage mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, and facilitate long-term, sustainable employment for people on the autism spectrum.
OTARC’s lead on the project, Dr Simon Bury, notes that standard employee assistance programs often lack specific knowledge to best support the mental health of autistic employees.
“Supporting a Neurodiverse Workforce aims to bridge the gap,” he says. “It provides an overview of autism and autism-friendly work environments, along with evidence-based strategies to promote mental health and wellbeing, with specific information on mental health and autism.”
Professor Cheryl Dissanayake, Director and Chair of OTARC, agrees, and hopes the toolkit will “both support the mental health of autistic employees but also build the sustainability of autism employment initiatives such as the Dandelion Program.”
OTARC are currently working with DXC, and their strategic partner Untapped, to produce employer training based on the toolkit. There are also plans to make a version of the toolkit available via DXC Technology’s open source channel via Cornell University.
“The toolkit was co-designed with people on the autism spectrum with lived experience and their support workers, co-workers and managers, as well as leading academics from around the world,” adds Michael Fieldhouse, DXC Dandelion Program Executive. “It is a world-first resource and we are committed to making it available to the autism community and employers.”