Workplace tool for employees with autism

Workplace success for people with autism may soon be improved thanks to a new agreement with La Trobe University’s Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre (OTARC), DXC Technology, Ono Academic College and the University of Haifa.

Problems people on the autism spectrum face in the workplace include difficulty with social interaction, impairments in verbal and non-verbal communication, difficulty planning goal-directed activities and high levels of anxiety.

The organisations have signed a memorandum of understanding to use the Work Performance Questionnaire (WPQ), an evidence-based tool to evaluate the work performance of employees with autism.

The WPQ was developed by Beit Ekstein, a leading disability education organisation in Israel, in conjunction with Dr Eynat Gal and Dr Naomi Schreuer from the Occupational Therapy department, University of Haifa, and Dr Noomi Katz from Ono Academic College.

The researchers revised the instrument and are now assessing its psychometric properties in more than 100 employed individuals with autism in Israel.

La Trobe’s OTARC researchers helped translate and revise the WPQ into English. With colleagues from the La Trobe Business School, they will also collect data to help in the instrument validation process in OTARC’s work with DXC.

OTARC and DXC already have an established relationship through the Dandelion Program, an employment program for people with autism. Formed in 2014, the program consists of a comprehensive on-boarding process and a unique ‘pod’ structure to provide ongoing support for new recruits and other DXC staff.

It is hoped the 50 people employed at DXC through the Dandelion Program, and their managers or supervisors, will complete the WPQ to help the employees’ long-term success at work by helping them identify their strengths and areas for improvement. By identifying areas for improvement, employees with autism and their supervisors can work to together to develop a plan to tackle any issues.

La Trobe University’s Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre Professor Cheryl Dissanayake said she was delighted with the collaboration.

“This new collaboration with our colleagues in Israel will be used to validate and use the WPQ in our research locally. We are in need of innovative tools and approaches to enhance employment success for people with autism, who sadly remain largely unemployed and underemployed in our community, despite their many talents,” she said.

Director for Emerging Businesses and Cybersecurity at DXC Technology Michael Fieldhouse said he was excited about the partnership.

“We are excited by this new relationship with University of Haifa and Ono Academic College with our existing strategic partner La Trobe University which is aimed at strengthening the program to improve workplace integration for people on spectrum. Employer tools such as this will help organisations transition to neuro-diverse workplaces. Our goal is to make systematic and sustainable change to our workplaces to create a more neuro-diverse work environment.”

Doctor Eynat Gal, and Doctor Naomi Schreuer from University of Haifa and Professor Noomi Katz from Ono Academic College said people with autism had the right and capability to attain meaningful and gainful employment that reflected their unique work-related abilities.

“Vocational assessments developed, as well as findings gathered from employers and employees with autism who were volunteers in the Israeli Army and employed in civil settings, reveal the great potential for this group to contribute to the workforce and society.

“We are excited by the opportunity to collaborate with a great group of researchers at La Trobe University, and hope that this initial collaboration will develop to a wider project that will benefit people with autism worldwide,” they said.



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