Saturday, 8 February 2020

Risk avoidance, and autistic professionals

Our Professional Practice is very keen indeed on equality, and on risk-avoidance.  Why equality?  Well, for a start, nearly half of autistic people are also part of the LGBT+ communities.  Some 10% are part of the BAME communities.  Not far off half are female.  1 in 30 of the population, in fact.   A brain diversity, not a disease or illness, as I'm sure you know. So much of the work I do nationally and internationally with organisations is around equality and diversity, working with people from all of those groups and more.

Like many Professional Practices in the UK, we recognise that prejudice is one of the biggest corporate risks out there.  A safe system is one that has all kinds of minds considering a situation. The least safe system is one that assumes that 'low risk' just happens to look like the nearest straight white man with an interest in rugby and Land Rovers, who reads the right-wing Press, votes right-wing, just happens to enjoy the same beers as the others in the same pub, and talks at a lot at events with lots of other men just like him. [Being clear that I've owned two Land Rovers, and son played national rugby...]

But I want to talk about a deeper form of risk-avoidance.

Those who follow the art world will know of the specialists who work in detecting fakes.  Using keen eyesight and extraordinary depth of knowledge, they can detect fakes that others miss.  Many of these experts are autistic.

Moving to the world of medicines, many of those who test data to ensure that medication really does do its job are autistic.

Moving to the world of accounting, many of those who are in the risk-management end of this, testing and analysing accounts for patterns, spotting errors, are autistic.

In the world of Detectives and Police, some of the very best they have are autistic (see National Police Autism Association for details).  That ability to spot the errors, to consider facts deeply and impartially, is a core strength in so many autistic professionals and allied trades.

In the world of Surveying, I was telling the Director of a large Bank about our track record, as a mixed team with considerable diversity.  Some 4000 complex pieces of work, requiring immense focus and dedication.  Error rate on values, nil.

But, society is used to seeing 'risk' around autism from the ancient set of myths.  Myths that we now know were mistakes.  But which are often touted in the popular right-wing press.  Myths around incompetence and so much more.  And those myths have caused deep damage to businesses across the UK.  I could be here for a fortnight relating how many autistic specialists I know who were removed from their post for whistleblowing on serious fraud or other lawbreaking they had noticed and reported in.   It's fair to say that very few of those companies are now in a good way, financially.  Oddly enough, the leaders seem to have pocketed vast sums and left the company in a perilous position.  How did that happen, eh?

By demonising autistic people, in good part.

By creating a culture where autistic focus is seen as 'obsession' and autistic honesty & genuinely different social communication protocols is seen as a 'lack of social skill'. Where ancient myths of lack of intelligence or 'angry behaviour' are still dragged out from the 1940s.

We live in a society in desperate need of all kinds of minds, all working together to ensure the best outcomes.  To ensure safety.  To ensure fairness.  To minimise risk.

If you have autistic specialists available to you, rejoice.  In fact, go out and get some.  Goodness me, if properly enabled, these are fantastic individuals who will produce that zero-error-rate decade after decade.

And if you are part of a whispering campaign around autistic 'deficit', with someone pointing to a multiply-disabled young lad with a learning difficulty and pretending that what's 'autism' is always about - do know you're being told some nonsense.

Thank you for reading.

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