Building Autistic Culture with User Experience (UX)

Much of my early work was in laying the groundwork for the mass adoption of the modern understanding of User Experience (UX) beyond the industries it was traditionally associated with. Specifically, I co-led an effort to adopt UX within the Federal Government in order to save taxpayer money and to solve for issues of national importance. It was as wonky as it sounds and also incredibly fun.

Effectively using user experience feedback is something I’ve deeply thought about in my recent work with Autism Advantage. It was on my mind as well this past Saturday when Jack Hogan and I were invited to talk about the program at the AASCEND Job Club in San Francisco.  We were there to share how we’ve worked with the autistic community to build an effective approach to training and developing quality career positions for autistic people in the IT industry & beyond. The session also allowed us to feature two of our current Autism Advantage data analysis training participants – Carp and Jennifer (who is also an AASCEND Board Member) who shared their experiences with the program.

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As an autistic person, I’ve sat through numerous trainings which didn’t quite get the autistic experience (“Simply asking us about our needs would save thousands of hours of unintentionally misguided research,” I often say). That’s one reason why Autism Advantage strategically structures participant feedback within our program. It’s also why Jack and I never accept a meeting or speaking engagement without using it as an opportunity to solicit feedback on Autism Advantage. Soliciting input from those whom our program will interact has been crucial to our success.

When I moved to San Francisco, I noted to friends that I needed help understanding how to construct a LinkedIn profile. They understandably laughed as I had previously been to LinkedIn’s headquarters twice on behalf of the White House where I even met with the company’s founder and senior leadership team. Yet, when I attended an AASCEND Job Club in April as a member and shared that same need, the group listened and immediately recognized that – as an autistic person – I’m able to master many things if shown templates and examples from which I can navigate. I now have a great LinkedIn profile and I’ve come to coach others on how to build effective profiles themselves. That wouldn’t have happened without AASCEND, who took the initiative to listen to and examine my needs.

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Autism Advantage Co-Founder Jack Hogan looks out on part of the AASCEND audience at the beginning of a break at the AASCEND Job Club on Saturday.

Anyone can operate a training program. Autism Advantage is different. We use training programs as a tool to solve for industry talent gaps as well as for autistic underemployment. To do that, we constantly solicit the feedback of those most closely tied to the outcomes of our efforts – most notably the business and autistic communities. User experience feedback allows us to build upon our success.

In the coming years, there will be increased demands and funding pressures to create robust services for autistic adults. As most of those programs don’t yet exist, anyone entering this space would do well to incorporate the autistic community and user experience from their inception. If you want to build an effective program for autistic adults, build a program with autistic adults. That’s what we’ve done with Autism Advantage. If you want to better serve your customer, let them tell you how. Doing that will not only successfully build up your own program, but it will help build success for your clients and will help build autistic culture as well.

@AutismAdvantage on Twitter.


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Hey! Our friend Kenneth is riding his bike this July for 100 miles from Washington, DC to the Atlantic Ocean. He decided to do this on his own to raise awareness and funds to train autistic adults through Autism Advantage. We think that’s awesome and hope you do to. You can support his effort by clicking here. Check it out!

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