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更新时间:2014-4-18 21:19:53 来源:华尔街日报中文网 作者:佚名

Companies Find Autism Can Be a Job Skill

Some employers increasingly are viewing autism as an asset and not a deficiency in the workplace.

Germany-based software company SAP AG has been actively seeking people with autism for jobs, not because of charitable outreach but because it believes features of autism may make some individuals better at certain jobs than those without autism.

It's a worthy initiative, according to disability experts, since 85% of adults with autism are estimated to be unemployed.

Piloted in Germany, India and Ireland, the program is also launching in four North American offices, according to an announcement Thursday.

SAP aims to have up to 1% of its workforce--about 650 people--be employees with autism by 2020, according to Jose Velasco, head of the autism initiative at SAP in the U.S.

People with autism spectrum disorder--characterized by social deficits and repetitive behavior--tend to pay great attention to detail, which may make them well suited as software testers or debuggers, according to Mr. Velasco, who has two children with the condition.

In addition, these people bring a different perspective to the workplace, which may help with efficiency and creativity as well, he said.

'They have a very structured nature' and like nonambiguous, precise outcomes, Mr. Velasco said. 'We're looking at those strengths and looking at where those traits would be of value to the organization.'

Autistic employees at SAP take on roles such as identifying software problems, and assigning customer-service queries to members of the team for troubleshooting.

One employee works in 'talent marketing,' issuing communications to employees internally. The company is looking for someone to produce videos and is considering an applicant with autism who has experience in media arts.

SAP is also considering other positions, such as writing manuals to give clients very precise instructions on how to install software.

Individuals with autism might excel at going step by step, without skipping details that others may miss, said Mr. Velasco. The business procurement process, such as getting invoices or managing the supply chain, is another area in which an individual with autism might shine, he said.

SAP isn't the only company to have such a program. In the U.S., mortgage lender Freddie Mac has offered career-track internships since 2012, including in IT, finance and research.

The lender hired its first full-time employee from the program in January, according to a Freddie Mac spokeswoman. In IT, the company has found that interns often perform well in testing and data-modeling jobs that require great attention to detail and focus as well as a way of seeing things that might not have been anticipated by the developers.

'Harnessing the unique skills of people on the autism spectrum has the potential to strengthen our business and make us more competitive,' according to the lender's policy.

To be sure, as with any group, people with autism have a range of interests and abilities. SAP is working with a Danish autism-focused training and consultancy firm, Specialisterne, which carefully screens and interviews the candidates to find the appropriate matches before sending them to SAP to evaluate.

Patrick Brophy, 29 years old, has a bachelor's degree in computer science in software systems and a master's in multimedia systems, which includes website development and editing. Mr. Brophy says he has Asperger's, a term commonly used to describe a milder form of autism spectrum disorder.

He had been looking for full-tine work for a few years but said that in the handful of interviews he went to, he would sometimes stutter or misinterpret questions, which he felt reflected poorly on him in the interviews.

When he arrived at SAP for the screening day, however, he had the technical qualifications and he appeared to have skills to work in a corporate setting, according to Peter Brabazon, Specialisterne program manager. Mr. Brophy was hired by the quality assurance department in July, where he identifies glitches in software prior to it being issued to clients.

'Four weeks before joining, I was steadily more and more nervous,' said Mr. Brophy, who worried about his adjustment to a new environment. 'Within a month, [the work] was second nature. I had found myself.'

Mr. Brophy said there have been challenges with his job, particularly when he has to revamp how he does a certain task.

From a social standpoint, he found it easy to integrate into his team, said both Mr. Brophy and David Sweeney, a colleague assigned to be his mentor.

About 1% of the population in the U.S.--or some three million people--is thought to have an autism-spectrum disorder. The latest figures issued Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that one in 68 children have been identified with an autism-spectrum disorder.

Their lifetime employment rate is extremely low even though many want to work, said disability experts. Among young adults between 21 and 25 years old, only half have ever held a paid job outside the home, according to a study published last year in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Though many people with autism go on to higher education and are qualified for employment, they may have trouble getting in the door of a workplace because of difficulties with networking or interviews, according to Wendy Harbour, executive director of the Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Education, at Syracuse University.

There are a number of companies and outreach efforts that aim to hire people with autism, seeking to tailor work to their abilities.

But SAP and employers like Freddie Mac said their effort is specifically a business decision to take advantage of what they see as unique skill sets.

SAP said that individuals being considered to work there usually have had at least some higher education.

In Dublin, the candidates arrive at the company's software design center, dubbed the 'AppHaus,' which features open spaces, movable desks and whimsical furniture. They are asked to work in pairs on a task building a motorized robot. Candidates are given the instruction manual and brief instructions.

Assessors from Specialisterne look to see if the candidates listen to instructions and pick up on cues, and how they react to challenges such as how the colors of the pieces to the robot look different from the instruction manual. 'I want to see how they work together and their technical skills,' said Debbie Merrigan, one of the assessors for Specialisterne.

She wants them to be meticulous, she says. If they aren't it doesn't mean they aren't employable, but they may not be a good fit for working at SAP. Sometimes candidates get overwhelmed and simply leave.

After Specialisterne identifies a candidate as being a good fit, SAP then conducts further interviews, as they would with any other applicant, says Kristen Doran, a program manager in human resources at SAP Dublin. At this facility, 15 candidates were screened and interviewed in order to hire the three who are currently placed as contractors. Mr. Brophy works in the quality assurance department while the other two individuals are in the troubleshooting division.

The candidates are paid market rate and if they succeed on the job, they will be hired as full-time employees after a year, said Liam Ryan, managing director of SAP Labs Ireland.

Difficulties with social interaction and inflexibility can sometimes pose significant problems for individuals with autism, and SAP has a mentoring system and in some cases has made changes to the work schedule to accommodate these new employees. The company also conducts a month of employee-adaptation training to increase employees' comfort level at working with the team as well as another month or more of job training.

'It's hard to go into a corporate space if you prefer order to disorder, ' says Thorkil Sonne, founder of Specialisterne. 'Our biggest effort is to work with them...to define and strengthen their comfort zone,' said Mr. Sonne, who has a son with autism.


德国软件公司SAP AG一直都在积极寻找自闭症患者,这并非是出于公益慈善的考虑,而是因为该公司认为自闭症的特征使人在特定岗位表现更为出色。



SAP美国分部自闭症计划负责人乔斯·韦拉斯科(Jose Velasco)说,SAP计划在2020年时使自闭症雇员比例达到1%,约650人。







SAP不是唯一一个拥有此类计划的公司。在美国,抵押贷款公司房地美(Freddie Mac)从2012年起提供职业生涯规划实习,包含IT、金融和调研等领域。



29岁的帕特里克·布罗非(Patrick Brophy)拥有软件系统的计算机学士学位和多媒体系统的硕士学位,其中包含网站开发和编辑。布罗非说他有亚斯伯格症,这一术语通常用来形容自闭症中程度较轻者。


Specialisterne的项目经理彼得·布拉巴宗(Peter Brabazon)表示,然而在SAP的选拔中,布罗非拥有技术资格,并且显示出了在企业中工作的能力。布罗非于去年七月被品质保障部门录用,职责是在软件发售给客户前检测其中的小问题。


布罗非说,从社交的角度来说,他觉得融入团队并非难事。他的同事兼导师大卫·斯威尼(David Sweeney)表达了同样的看法。

美国约有1%的人口,或者说约300万人,患有自闭症。美国疾病控制与预防中心(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)周四发布的最新数据显示,每68名儿童中就有一人被确诊为自闭症。

疾病专家表示,尽管这些人想要去工作,他们一生中的被雇佣率却非常之低。《美国儿童及青少年精神病学学院期刊》(Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry)去年发表的一项研究显示,在21至25岁的年轻人中,只有半数曾有过走出家门的带薪工作。

温迪·哈伯(Wendy Harbour)说,即使许多自闭症患者继续接受高等教育并获得了任职资格,他们也会因社交障碍或在面试中的表现而被公司拒之门外。哈伯是雪城大学(Syracuse University)泰肖夫(Taishoff)中心的执行总监,该中心致力于兼容并包的高等教育。





Specialisterne的评委着重观察候选人是否听从指导、按指令行动,以及他们如何应对挑战,例如机器人部件的颜色和说明书上的不一样。“我想看看他们如何合作、技术水平如何”,Specialisterne的评委黛比·梅里根(Debbie Merrigan)说。

她说她想要那些一丝不 的人。如果不够谨慎并不代表他们不适合被雇佣,但可能不适合在SAP工作。有时候选人觉得压力太大就直接离开了。

SAP都柏林分部人力资源部的项目经理克里斯滕·多兰(Kristen Doran)说,在Specialisterne选出合适的候选人之后,SAP会接着做进一步的面试,就像他们对所有应聘者所做的一样。在这里,15名候选人参与了选拔和面试,为的是选出三人。他们三人现在都是合同工。布罗非在品质保障部门,另外两人则在问题解决部门。

SAP爱尔兰实验室总监利亚姆·瑞安(Liam Ryan)说,候选人一旦成功入选,将会按照市场平均水平获得报酬,一年之后会成为正式全职员工。


“如果你习惯了无规律的生活就很难融入工作场所”, Specialisterne 创始人托基尔·索恩(Thorkil Sonne)说。“我们要尽最大努力来发现并拓展他们的适应能力”,索恩说。他的儿子也患有自闭症。