Why are so many autistic people missing from the UK workforce?’ is the question Rachael Klug asks in our lead article. It troubles her with good reason as just 22% of adults diagnosed with autism are in some kind of regular employment.1 An autist herself and the mother of three grown-up autistic children, Rachael is a therapist specialising in working with neurodiversity and trauma. Her article painfully exposes the prejudice and discrimination experienced by autistic people which starts in school, and means too often they are failed by our education system. It all makes for a challenging entrance into the world of work.
Rethinking how our employers can become more inclusive so that autistic people can contribute more fully to society is both an important and pressing task. And there are questions for the therapy profession too, about how we work with our neurodiverse clients and whether we are equipped to do so without specific training. I’ve learnt much from reading Rachael’s article, and I can see why she says it’s essential that therapists have specialist training for working with this client group. I’d love to know what you think.
The need for continued professional development is a thread that runs through this issue, including in ‘My workplace’. On page 14, I talk to Jonny Ward who has 16 years’ experience in the fire and rescue service, and is also a therapist and workplace consultant. It’s an unusual portfolio but it works well. Jonny talks honestly about his enthusiasm for teaching mental health first aid prior to training as a therapist, and reflects the pitfalls to an approach which is overly focused on spotting the signs of poor mental health by people without expertise. He’s a passionate advocate for the therapy profession to be strategically more fully engaged in supporting workplace mental health and wellbeing.
A perfect example of this can be found on page 24 as Simon Pestell and a team of workplace specialists from the staff counselling service, in an acute hospital in Northumbria, share what happened when they introduced a pilot in mental health awareness training for the line managers of healthcare workers.
And finally, I talk to Samreen McGregor, the author of Leader Awakened, about her new book on embodied leadership. It’s a call for leaders to wake up to their vulnerability and the trauma which we all carry, and to recognise this as part of the human condition. It’s a big ask as it requires that leaders engage with a depth of work, personally and professionally, which is never easy. Samreen hopes her book will cultivate compassionate leaders who are committed to improve the human condition and humanise the future of work. I hope so too.
Editor, BACP Workplace