Despite honourable intentions, it feels like autism has been conspicuous by its absence at the diversity top table. We wanted to do something about this - especially knowing how thinking differently is so critical to our business.
There was a hunch too that looking at neurodiversity would really benefit our culture. Add in awareness of the woeful statistics of autistic people being in employment and our strategy was clear.
So we worked with Scope and Ambitious about Autism who have a programme to help autistic adults into work.
We then worked collectively to establish the ideal role. It was decided that, counter to stereotypes, a person who had finance skills and creative ambition could wholesale enhance our environment and vice versa. The two charities had Chris in mind as someone who fitted the bill and was also in search of work and a positive work experience.
We involved staff throughout the process and also provided autism training which was incredibly well received.
Matt on Chris:
"I knew Chris was right as soon as I met him. He was full of questions and rare in his ability to offer finance skills and creative ones. He straddles two departments and is a glue for the agency, socially.
"He’s very much part of a great finance team, doing vital accounts payable work. On creative jobs he’s really challenged the department with some lateral thinking and ability to see problems differently.
"The posters he’s designed are clever and carry the perfect tone for us as an agency. The bit of work he should be most proud of is the Christmas campaign he worked on for the charity Autistica where he championed a calmer Christmas with some clever ideas like a sensory Christmas tree.
"Chris is honest and tells me when he’s overwhelmed or when he wants to increase his social skills - starting a treats trolley has been great for these reasons.
"As a work colleague and as a friend Chris is brilliant."
Chris on Red Brick Road:
"I always had a passion for design and stuff like that. Making things, photography, being creative.
My options before I found Red Brick Road weren’t what I wanted though. I wanted to be somewhere inclusive where my needs are met - people needed to be open minded and I needed to feel wanted and involved. Red Brick Road give me that.
"I work in finance in the mornings which I like, using my accounts skills and being part of a team. And creative in the afternoon, working on campaigns for the agency and with the teams. I also do initiatives like recycling and a treats trolley which is helping with my people skills.
"If ever I feel overwhelmed I know people understand and I can find space to breath.
"My confidence improves all the time and with people like Matt understanding the challenges of disability I know I can make a real difference. Things are looking up!"
Tickets for the #diverseminds conference, sponsored by Dentsu Aegis, IPA, Direct Line Group and The Mill are available here.
Matt Davis is co-owner and executive creative director of Red Brick Road. He blogs about autism at mysonisaac.net. He is also a parent patron of Ambitious about Autism and on the communications board of Autistica.