ASD, ADHD and Dyslexia Go to Work

By Liz McBride

dateThu, Mar 24, 2016 @ 09:00 AM

My personal BHAG is for my 12-year old son, Jack, who is on the autism spectrum, to go to college.Liz-McBride-personal-BHAG If you attended my session at the Breakthrough Conference, then you already have the inside scoop that we feel we will achieve this goal and are already thinking beyond college. Could he live independently? What career options would he have?

I’m inspired when I see a trend in business authors speaking to the benefits of hiring, working with, or navigating a career with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), ADHD or Dyslexia.

David Rendall, author of The Freak Factor, emphasizes how “every characteristic has a strength and a weakness at the same time.”

On Dyslexia:

Rendell says, “The very brain they have that causes them to struggle in school helps them succeed in life.” In fact, 50% of all millionaires in Great Britain and 30% of all millionaires in the US have dyslexia, even though only 10% of the general population has dyslexia. Here are just a few examples:

  • Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA, has dyslexia.
  • Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Atlantic, has dyslexia.
  • Paul Orfalea, founder of Kinkos, has dyslexia and ADHD.

On Autism:

Specialisterne USA hires people with autism. Why? Because they are hyper-focused and happy doing the same thing over and over again.

Microsoft just launched a pilot program to hire people with autism. They recognized the untapped science, mathematics and technology skills many of the 80% unemployed people with ASD possess and wanted to tap into it.

“These are people who may not be able to pass an initial interview or screen because their social skills may not be 100 percent in line with what is expected in an initial interview, but what amazing talent are we missing as a result?” - Mary Ellen Smith, Corporate VP of Worldwide Operations at Microsoft

Jeff Sutherland, author of Scrum, talks about the unique abilities of people on the autism spectrum; they’re incredibly visual while craving clear directions. Scrum is designed with clear, visual, priorities making it desirable for arguably everyone, but it can provide a framework of success for the Jacks of the world. Sutherland speaks of a student who had poor communication skills two years prior becoming a Scrum Master.


Disability turns into a competitive advantage. Michael Phelps has ADHD; so, what did his mom do? Got him into swimming. Smart move, Momma Phelps!

Rendall wants us to “Match who you are to where you are. Think of three job responsibilities that allow you to be your best. Not, where do you suck and how you can be mediocre.” In school, we were pumped full of negativity bias - we focused on what we did wrong. As Sir Ken Robinson said, “Many highly-talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not because the thing they were good at at school wasn’t valued, or was actually stigmatized.”

My passion is sharing the importance of providing an inclusive environment to children on the autism spectrum. I recently spoke to parents in Charlotte who are grappling with schools, diets and therapies for their newly diagnosed children and gave them a teaspoon of best practices with a tablespoon of hope.

We fought for inclusion for our son and recently attended his 6th grade honor roll assembly. Our BHAG is in sight so, it’s time to build a new one about finding him an independent career.

Jack wants to be a Kindergarten teacher. While his brothers were busily plugging back into their PS4 on a Friday night, Jack was searching teaching supplies websites and selecting posters he wants to display in his classroom one day. I’m sure it will be the most organized and visually pleasing classroom in the building. He has more work to do in order to be able to communicate with parents and handle childhood emotions, but with the right support... well, I look forward to seeing what the future has in store.

Are you equipped to focus on the skills and abilities those entering the workforce bring to the table... and to help them match who they are to where they are? Are you up for the challenge? Well, then, do I have a BHAG that’s right for you!

Free Guide:
3 Steps to Create Your BHAG


Liz McBride


Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images