Why autism awareness is more important now than ever before

Society is going to need a neurodiverse workforce now more than ever, according to a lawyer who is on the autism spectrum.

Ian McCann, founder of Leeds-based Legal Studios, believes that those with conditions such as autism have a key part to play in a post-coronavirus world bringing a different perspective to business.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Mr McCann said: “Businesses have to adapt and develop to not just survive but thrive. Times of crisis force evolutionary responses.

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“Traditional business thinking may not be suitable in the current climate or in the new climate that we’re heading for. How do you get non-traditional thinking? With different perspectives.

Ian McCann was diagonsed as being autistic much later in life.

“Where are different perspectives available? They are available with people who have neurodiverse conditions. We perceive and see the world differently to everyone else.

“That’s not to say that neurodiverse people are the magic bullet or that they are the complete answer. They are certainly a resource that people should be thinking about using.”

Businesses simply need to make some “reasonable adjustments” to tap into their potential, says Mr McCann.

It’s World Autism Awareness Day today. According to the most recent figures from the National Autistic Society, just 16 per cent of autistic adults are in full-time work.

Ian McCann at Legal Studios in Leeds.

Mr McCann says it’s important to continue raising awareness to help combat some of the myths surrounding people with autism.

He added that it’s about helping those that aren’t autistic understand what it’s like for people living with the condition.

“People say ‘you don’t look autistic’,” the commercial litigation specialist says, “I didn’t know there was a uniform that I had to wear.

“Other things like ‘does that mean you can count cards?’ No that’s not it. It’s about dispelling the myths, educating people about what it means and empowering people on the spectrum to be able to say that’s me, I relate to that and it’s OK.”

Ian McCann is keen to help reaise awareness around autism and neurodiversity.

The shutdown following the coronavirus outbreak has led to everyone’s lives being disrupted. However, the disruption is particularly acute for many on the autism spectrum.

Mr McCann admits that it is affecting him and that an enforced change to routine is always hard for him to accept.

He said: “I used to have a very well defined morning routine and a commute into work on the train and then a walk from the station. All of that time was me getting the right headspace and getting ready for work.

“It has to change and I understand that but that change in routine has had an impact.”

As the world struggles to get to grips with the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr McCann is worried that awareness of autism could fall off the radar.

He added: “In some respects it’s justified. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic, we have significant economic, societal, practical and health concerns that everybody has.

“For me, raising awareness right now is really important because there are acute things that people on the spectrum are having to deal with now that everyone else is having to deal with but because they are on the autistic spectrum those are amplified and are more difficult.”

Mr McCann’s autism diagnosis, which he says saved his life, came as an adult.

There are approximately 700,000 people in the UK who are on the autistic spectrum. Mr McCann believes that there are many more adults who are undiagnosed as they are fearful of how society might perceive them.

Forming a bond with Callum

Ian McCann has started to form a bond with Callum Gamble, a young web developer who also has autism.

The lawyer says there’s a lot that he can learn from the young web developer.

Mr Gamble was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at the age of eight.

Despite gradutaing with a first class honours in creative media technology, he lasted only three weeks in his first job. He was humiliated in front of the whole office, despite having disclosed his condition during his interview.

Now he along with his mother run their own web development agency called KreativeInc.

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