Device helps people with autism navigate and communicate in the workplace

Posted at 2:36 PM, Apr 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-14 16:52:23-04

Autism is often diagnosed at a young age.

The average age listed by the CDC is 4.5 years old.

Because of that, many people in the autism community feel it's often forgotten that kids with autism grow up to be adults with autism.

It's something that has contributed to challenges and bias in the workplace.

“The majority of autistic adults are either unemployed or underemployed in the United States today. So, we definitely need to do a better job because there's so many talented autistic adults out there if given the opportunity they'll really succeed in the workforce,” said Kerry Magro.

He was diagnosed with autism as a child and has built a career in public speaking advocating for autism acceptance, and even just landed a role with Netflix as a consultant for the show 'Love on the Spectrum'.

“We need to change the narrative from what a company can do for an autistic person and instead say what an autistic person can do for that company,” he said.

Magro says one of the biggest challenges can be saying the right things in an interview. He’s encouraging more companies to forgo that process and instead give people with autism a one-day work trial. But for those with autism who are non-verbal, there is another set of challenges.

Kellie Roberts’ son, Chad is 30 years old and is non-verbal. He splits his time working four jobs.

“He was always considered the worst, the hardest, any label you could put on him to make him sound as bad as they could make him sound. Chad’s a really active person, so sitting in a day program somewhere just that wouldn't be something that Chad would enjoy,” Roberts said.

Chad communicates at work and at home using a device called Tobii Dynavox, which Kellie says has helped eliminate some of the negative labels.

“They see Chad as a person, they see Chad as a co-worker, and then they might see Chad as somebody with autism but it's really given him a voice and puts him at an equal platform with other people,” said Roberts.

Marleah Herman-Umpleby is a speech language pathologist at Tobii Dynavox.

She says, “I think that everyone wins when we have a more diverse workplace and the kind of color and variety of people that come together in a workplace makes everyone have a better experience there.”

Tobii Dynavox offers a number of services for people with disabilities to help navigate work and school.

Kellie says another resource Chad has had success with is Briggs and Associates. The company helps match people with disabilities to jobs.

Magro is also encouraging small businesses to do their part, by offering a grant program through his nonprofit, to those who hire people with disabilities.