By Sharon A James, on 24 January 2023
Back in December 2022 Sharon James and Sarah Turk attended this online course. Below are their write-ups of the presentations.
First presentation, delivered by Clare Caccavone
The first presentation, “Progressing neurodiversity and making adjustments” was delivered by Clare Caccavone, Programme Director at Ambitious about Autism. This charity provides support, specialist education and employability services for autistic children and young people. Clare informed us that 56% of autistic children have been unofficially excluded from school, 4 out of 5 autistic young people experience mental health issues, and only 29% of autistic people are in employment.
Features of autism include difficulties with social communication, social interaction, routines, and sensory overload. To bring this to life we were shown a helpful short video in which young people with autism talked about stimming, a coping mechanism that helps with anxiety. It involves repetitive actions such as rocking, hand flapping, feet tapping, sniffing a scent or squeezing a hand toy. The video is from the Ambitious about Autism YouTube channel. We also watched this Sensory Overload video that allows the watcher to experience what it is like to be overwhelmed by everyday noise and confusion.
Ambitious about Autism are proud of a pilot they ran, the Higher Education Network, where they worked with 17 universities, trained over 100 employers, and enabled more than 170 autistic students to benefit from paid work. Aiming to create a more neurodiverse workforce, they are also working with five universities this year.
Finally, we were given some tips for when working with neurodiverse students and colleagues. These include:
- In your workplace, notice what could present a challenge for others.
- Provide advance warning of any changes, cancellations or closures.
- Allow the use of self-calming strategies that are not harmful.
- Use someone’s name before talking so that you have their attention.
- Don’t assume what you have said is obvious; reiterate what will happen and why.
- Allow more time for information to be processed.
- Give staff and students any questions you have before meeting up with them.
I found this presentation very helpful, especially the practical tips. The videos were also informative and allowed me to better understand the experiences involved in being neurodiverse. As a frontline worker I feel that this training will help me when communicating with all library users and colleagues.
Ambitious about Autism website.
by Sharon James
Second presentation, delivered by Daniela de Silva and Eleri Kyffin
The second presentation, “Inclusive recruitment practices at the University of Westminster, Library and Archive Service”, was delivered by Daniela de Silva and Eleri Kyffin from the University of Westminster Library. We learned about how they have transformed the recruitment process to make it more inclusive and support neurodiverse applicants.
When invited to interview, all candidates now receive a Recruitment Welcome Pack which includes the names and pictures of the interview panel, information about the team and post, interview tips and guidance along with the interview questions (or the topics for questions for senior roles). It was interesting to learn that feedback gathered from both the interview candidates and the interview panel members was on the whole very positive. Whilst some candidates found that having the questions in advance made them more nervous, the majority felt it was very helpful. The interview panel found that even with the questions in advance they could see the candidates’ strengths and weaknesses, and follow up questions could be used to probe a bit deeper.
As a recruiter who sometimes feels that the interview process may not allow a candidate to do themselves justice, it was very thought provoking to hear the positive experiences of both the panel members and candidates at the University of Westminster. What I found particularly inspiring was that whilst this began as a way of making their recruitment more inclusive for autistic candidates, it actually could have the potential to make the process more inclusive for all. Definitely food for thought!
by Sarah Turk