Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at

Thursday, April 21, 2016

"Turning a disability into an advantage"/ "Employees with disabilities don't hurt profitability - very much the opposite"

Dec. 26, 2015 Inline image"Turning a disability into an advantage": I cut out this article by Anne Mcilroy in the Globe and Mail on Nov. 3, 2011.  It was about autism and I'm interested in that:

A University of Montreal scientist who studies the power of the autistic brain says it is time to start thinking of the disorder as an advantage in some settings – including in academic research.

Over the past seven years, eight people with autism have been associated with Laurent Mottron’s research group, including Michelle Dawson, who has become a close collaborator. Some of the team members have exceptional memories, while others have an ability to see patterns in data, or other skills, and contribute because of their autism, not despite it, Dr. Mottron said.

This week, in an article in the prestigious British journal Nature, he makes the case that employers should capitalize on the special mental abilities of people with autism.

“As a clinician, I also know all too well that autism is a disability that can make daily activities difficult. One out of 10 autistics cannot speak, nine out of 10 have no regular job, and four out of five are still dependent on their parents. … But in my experience, autism can also be an advantage,” he said.

Ms. Dawson, for example, can remember vast amounts of data from hundreds of research papers.

“She is absolutely exceptional. It is combination of huge intelligence and autism. The fact that she is autistic gives her intelligence a specific aspect,” Dr. Mottron said in an interview. Ms. Dawson frequently challenges and disagrees with him. Sometimes, her criticisms are discouraging, but he admits she is nearly always accurate.

Ms. Dawson says that the strengths she brings to the lab are extreme versions of what are usually called autistic deficits.

But she also knows her weaknesses.

“I'm very aware of my own shortcomings and failings as a researcher, and how much better I could have done and how much better I should be doing.”

Autism and related conditions, known under the catch-all term autism spectrum disorders, have become increasingly common in recent years and affect communication and social interaction. The brain disorder starts in early childhood and persists into adulthood; research suggests that only about 5 per cent of adults with autism are self-supporting.

Traditionally, three-quarters of people with autism have been classified, after testing, as having low intelligence.

Dr. Mottron and his colleagues have found that the type of intelligence test that is used to assess someone with the disorder makes a huge difference.

Individuals with autism tend to fare poorly on a standard IQ tests that require verbal instructions, but can do much better on non-verbal tests that measure reasoning and creative problem-solving. They are faster on these kinds of tests than normal volunteers and use a different part of the brain to solve the problems.

Other studies suggest people with autism are also better in a wide range of perception tasks, such as spotting a pattern in a distracting environment or mentally manipulating complex three-dimensional shapes.

Dr. Mottron, who is also director of the autism program at Hospital Rivière-des-Prairies in Montreal, wants to find effective new teaching strategies that build on these strengths.

He said that people with autism in the workplace may need mediators to help settle situations that trigger anxiety, giving occasions when Ms. Dawson’s computer crashes as an example.

Sometimes autistic team members don’t see the importance of deadlines, Dr. Mottron said, but their contributions are important.

He said the members of his lab with autism are “ordinary’ autistics, not savants like the character played by Dustin Hoffman in the movie Rain Man.

Suzanne Lanthier, executive director of Autism Speaks Canada, said the needs of the adult community, including employment opportunities, have long been overlooked.

“The one in 110 children that are now being diagnosed with autism will grow – are growing – to be one in 110 adults with autism, and their needs, skills and abilities must be taken very seriously by the research community, government, education settings and employers.”

It is important to remember that autism looks different in every individual, she said.

“A person with an autism spectrum disorder can be highly verbal but have significant sensory issues or social communication issues or cognitive impairments,” she said. Others with autism have no spoken language.

These individuals may have normal intelligence, Dr. Mottron said, but it is important to differentiate intelligence and adaptation. Many autistic individuals depend on non-autistics for their regular life.

“We know that. But if we have intelligence, we should use it.”

A number of organizations have been formed to help people with autism find meaningful work, including a non-profit group in Illinois called Aspiritech and The Specialist People Foundation in Denmark.

Dr. Mottron sees people with autism as especially suited for academic science.
“From a young age, they may be interested in information and structures, such as numbers, letters, mechanisms and geographical patterns – the basis of scientific thinking. Their intense focus can lead them to become self-taught experts in scientific subjects.”


Michelle Dawson has autism and has been collaborating with researcher Laurent Mottron for seven years. In an e-mail exchange, she responded to a question about the strengths she brings to the research team.

“Mostly I'm useful because I have extreme versions of what are usually called autistic deficits. One example: My responses to anomalies are extreme and impossible to deflect. Until I resolve the anomaly, I can be hugely disruptive (there are witnesses!). I really can't help it, and there's the problem of others being oblivious to the anomalies I perceive, which should make things even worse. So this sounds severely dysfunctional and just plain bad. But I've been given opportunities to be in contexts where spotting anomalies at multiple scales, and pursuing them no matter what, has been sort of productive, at least so far. If I were less extreme in this respect, less “severe,” I wouldn't be useful in research in any way.”

Feb. 7, 2016 "Employees with disabilities don't hurt profitability - very much the opposite": I cut out this article by Mark Wafer in the Globe and Mail on Feb. 4, 2016.  It's a very good article informing people to hire people with disabilities:

Tim Hortons franchise owner in Toronto and an advocate for Canadians with disabilities

I'm a long-time Tim Hortons franchise owner with six restaurants in Toronto. Over the years, we've employed more than 125 employees with disabilities in meaningful and competitively paid positions. Today, 46 of our 250 employees identify as having a disability. These disabilities range from significant intellectual challenges to deafness, blindness, mental-health issues, physical disabilities and episodic disabilities such as multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy. They hold positions in our company ranging from entry level to senior management.

Recently, our company reached out to former Goodwill employees who had lost their jobs as that organization closed its doors in the Toronto region.

These individuals are marginalized workers and many have disabilities. We reached out to them because we know the massive barriers they will face in finding new jobs.

The unemployment rate for Canadians with disabilities is somewhere between 60 per cent and 70 per cent. Officially, Statistics Canada says it's about 50 per cent, but that doesn't take into account the many Canadians who have no marketplace attachment, such as the 450,000 school graduates from the past five years who have disabilities and have never worked even a single day. (Of those, about 270,000 have a postsecondary education.) But they aren't counted in unemployment numbers, so we know that the official numbers are conservative.

Imagine, then: If Canadians with disabilities who hold economics degrees and MBAs are unable to find work only because they have disabilities, what hope do the former Goodwill employees have in the search for new employment?

Our shout-out to the Goodwill employees went viral on social media. We received an enormous response. We will indeed be hiring some of those workers at our stores, but the most significant feedback I received was from other companies and corporations that said they had never thought about hiring a person with a disability. In 2016, I find that absurd and frustrating. It's unacceptable.

More than 15 per cent of Canadians have a disability. Why do employers continue to ignore or fear such a large and untapped labour talent pool? How can an employer say they haven't given much thought to this massive demographic group?

The answer is simple: Employers believe in a series of stereotypes, myths and misperceptions about including disabled people on their payrolls. They believe disabled employees will work slower and be less productive, need more time off, work less safely or be less innovative.

Or that the accommodations required will be too expensive.
These are all myths.

In fact, including workers with disabilities in real jobs with equal pay tends to have a direct and positive impact on a business's profitability. Workers with disabilities are more productive, work more safely, stay longer, require less supervision, are more innovative and have less absenteeism.

In my business, for example, the absenteeism rate for my 46 employees with disabilities is 85 per cent lower than the 200 employees without disabilities.

My annual employee turnover is 38 per cent, versus the 100-percent norm in the quick-service restaurant sector. I have never filled out a Workplace Safety and Insurance Board claim for a workplace injury to a worker with a disability. And workers with disabilities have different problemsolving skills - and "different" is exactly how workplace innovation is bred.

This all adds up to an economic case. Being an inclusive employer has a major economic impact on a business once capacity has being built, yet most Canadian companies are still too fearful to hire a qualified, educated and skilled candidate who has a disability. They almost always choose the less-qualified and non-disabled applicant.
The economic impact to my business has been profound.

Employee morale is higher over all - the turnover rate for my nondisabled staff is 55 per cent, just more than half the norm. And customers want to shop in retail outlets that are inclusive. That means more sales and more transactions.

Canadian businesses must realize that excluding the disabled, willfully or otherwise, is holding them back. A business cannot consider itself to be an outstanding employer if it excludes 15 per cent of the Canadian population.

There is one more compelling figure that should make companies want to get on board:

Although 15.5 per cent of Canadians identify as having a disability, adding in those individuals' direct family members brings the number of Canadians directly affected by disability to 53 per cent.

Now that is a figure no business can afford to ignore.

Feb. 15, 2016 Asperger's in the workplace: I cut out this article by Carter Hammet in 24 News on Oct. 22, 2012.  There is an e-edition of it.  It interviewed Jonathan Jablonowski who has Aspergers. 

It mentions Aspergers Job Readiness Program (ASJRP), a services provider JVS Toronto ( in partnership with Kerrys Place Autism Services.

It mentioned that with the right job accommodations, a person with AS can demonstrate enhanced job performance.


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