The panelists explored the various employment and education issues that autistic individuals face and approached these issues from a variety of perspectives: historical, social, cultural, and personal. ASAN-Central Ohio emphasized some practical ways in which employers and educators can create accessible environments for autistic people, as well as ways in which autistic individuals can effectively self-advocate for accommodations.
Melanie, president of ASAN-Central Ohio/OSU and PhD candidate, introduced the goals and work of ASAN and addressed the institutional barriers that autistic individuals routinely face in higher education (e.g., needing "non-traditional" accommodations and having difficulty getting needs met, participating in class and extracurricular/professionalization activities). She also shared some of her experiences as an autistic student, teacher, and researcher, and discussed best practices for creating more inclusive professional enviroments (e.g., respecting individual difference, encouraging alternate forms of participation, providing text transcripts/outlines of discussion points or conference papers, etc.).
Whitney, a PhD student at Ohio State, spoke on behalf of Justin Rooney (OSU staff) and provided a run-down of the many activities that ASAN-Central Ohio has engaged in over the past year. She also emphasized the necessity of connecting autistic individuals with others across disability communities and building larger communities of support.
Noranne, blogger and employee at a school for autistic children, shared some of her personal experiences as a student and employee. She also discussed the pros and cons associated with disclosing one’s disability to employers and colleagues, how “coming out autistic” has the potential to provide understanding or cause alienation, depending on the situation. Moreover, she stressed the need for educators and employers to regard autistic people first and foremost as individuals, and not as embodied stereotypes.