Autism In Real Life

Episode 3: Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace with Marcelle Ciampi (a.k.a. Samantha Craft)

September 09, 2021 Ilia Walsh, Executive Director of The Spectrum Strategy Group Season 2 Episode 3
Autism In Real Life
Episode 3: Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace with Marcelle Ciampi (a.k.a. Samantha Craft)
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode Marcelle and I have a very exciting and inspiring conversation about inclusion, diversity and universal design in the workplace.

Marcelle Ciampi M.Ed. (aka Samantha Craft), a respected Autistic author and international ambassador, has been featured at over 100 events around the world. Ciampi is best known for her writings found in the well-received book Everyday Aspergers, endorsed by best-selling author Steve Silberman. She is the Senior Manager of DEI at Ultranauts Inc., an engineering firm with an autism hiring initiative (featured in the New York Times), where Ciampi is credited for largely-architecting an innovative universal design approach to workplace inclusion. Some of her works, especially the Autistic Traits List, have been translated into multiple languages and widely-shared in counseling offices, globally. A former school teacher, Ciampi has corresponded directly with over 10,000 individuals on the autism spectrum and been featured in various literature, including citations in articles, books, and research papers. A selection of her writings can be found in ND GiFTS, ICare4 Autism, Exceptional Needs Today, Autism Parenting Magazine, ERE, and Different Brains. Considered an expert in the field of neurodiversity in the workplace, by key thought leaders such as Judy Singer, her knowledge is shared through consultancy work at quality enterprises like Uptimize. She serves as the founder of Spectrum Suite LLC, the Co-founder of the Spectrum Lights Inclusion Summit, Co-executive of LifeGuides for Autistics, and a contributor, advisor, and board member to autism organizations and conferences, including the Stanford Neurodiversity Summit. Her upcoming book, Autism in a Briefcase: Straight talk about belonging in a neurodiverse world, is based on 3000 hours of study. Ciampi also contributed to the book Spectrum Women: Walking to the Beat of Autism and was recently accepted as a doctoral student in the field of organizational leadership and social justice. Recent appearances include AstraZeneca, Deloitte, Accenture, and Bank of New York Mellon. Marcelle is Autistic (Aspergers) with gifted-intellect, and dyslexic, dyspraxic, and hyperlexic, what she calls a ‘blended-neurodivergent.’ Two of her adult sons are also neurodivergent, as is her life partner.
You can find out more about Marcelle and her work at and 

Hello, and welcome to the autism in real life podcast. In each episode, you'll get practical strategies by taking your journey into the joys and challenges of life with autism. I'm your host, Ilia Walsh, and I'm an educator and the parent of two young adults, one of which is on the autism spectrum. Join me as I share my experience and the experiences of others, so that we may see the unique gifts and talents of individuals on the autism spectrum, fully recognized.

Hello, everyone, and welcome. This is Ilia with the spectrum Strategy Group. And I welcome you to today's episode, I'm very happy to have Marcel champey here with me today and some of you may also know her as Samantha craft. And we're going to be talking about employment. But Marcel, if you can give a little bit of background on yourself so people get a sense of the kind of work that you do. And you'll see why we're chatting today.

Thank you so much for having me here today. And I'd be more than happy to give a little bit about my background. I am a an autistic woman I was diagnosed around 10 years ago being on the autism spectrum at that time Asperger's Syndrome was a diagnosis. And my middle son is on the autism spectrum and my youngest son of three sons is also neurodivergent. Or what I like to call neuro variant or neuro v. And I have been in the autism autistic community. For actively for about 10 years, I started blogging,

and I now have three blogs and over half a million words written online. I started blogging approximately 10 years ago as well shortly after my late age diagnosis of being on the spectrum. And since then, because of my writings and interactions in the autistic community. I've been blessed and delighted to meet autistic people and their supporters and allies and advocates from around the world. I've had over 10,001 on one correspondence with people related to the field of autism, or autistic people are those with similar neurological profiles such as ADHD ears, and Dyslexics. I call myself a blended nerd divergent or blended neuro variant because I like most autistic people that I know. And according to research, I have several coexisting conditions. I'm not only autistic, but I'm also a dyslexic hyperlexia iq. I have dyspraxia, PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, ADHD, not officially but I'm certain I have that and all of those combined for a very unique neurology unique perspective and grant me a lot of empathy and understanding. So I have the ability to connect with with many people and make many new friends across the globe. And that that is one of my biggest joys in life. I work for a company that is completely unsure 100% remote

founded by two MIT graduates and I have been there for six years used to be ultra testing. It's now called ultra knots like an astronaut, spelled similarly, astronaut ultra not Inc. and we are an engineering firm. When I started almost seven years ago, I was their very first recruiter. And I in fact, I just shared on LinkedIn today that I was a former school teacher, I had not any recent work history was a stay at home mom. And despite that, with zero direct recruitment experience, they hired me as their very first recruiter. And because of their trust and their risk and risk taking and out of the box thinking, for the last six years, I've been able to largely architect and design the recruitment process from the ground up, which is not only based on now over 3000 hours of study into best practices in the workplace, but best practices for the neurodivergent population. I recently completed a book, autism in a briefcase. It's my third contribution to a book now. I completed the book, which is based on my studies and my last six plus years. And it's called autism it briefcase straight talk about belonging in a neuro diverse world. And what I've learned through this journey of being an autistic person being an artistic parent being in an autistic relationship with another autistic gentleman, and being an autistic recruiter,

I've put all that together to present what I would call a social justice piece of best practices in the workplace, not only for autistic people, but for human beings. I started off as a recruiter, I've also served as the mediator in the workplace, the community manager for the well, being an advisor to the CEOs and founder, I continue that role as an advisor. And now I'm the Senior Manager of diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as the ambassador for the company. And we recently started what is called the diversity with dignity Roundtable, founded by five of us most on the autism spectrum, or neurodivergent, if not all, and continuing on if they are undiagnosed, or if disclosed. And the diversity with dignity roundtable is a free service with no catch. It's a community platform, where we gather the last Wednesday of every month, and we've had our second meeting yesterday, and we've had 45 people attend, where the first part is designated to educating free education about neuro diversity, diversity, equity, inclusion, and all things related to autism and and being a neuro variant. And then the latter part is set aside for sharing resources and networking and gathering other people's LinkedIn profiles. And what's a good YouTube to watch what's where's the place, I can find this. That's been a wonderful,

wonderful new blossoming, of opportunity and connection, I'm very much looking forward to see where that goes. And ultra knots I also am in charge of creating quarterly webinars, we just had five key thought leaders who are non males,

present not speak because not everybody speaks with their vocal cords right? present on what it's like to be in the workplace as an autistic person, the stereotypes, the Miss, what's working, what's not working, wonderful five, five non males, we had representation from the black community, from the LGBTQIA community, from people of different ages and backgrounds, including some names that people would recognize, in fact, you've had at least one of them on your show.

So very proud and happy to be in a position where I am afforded the opportunity to create these experiences and be part of those experiences. As I said, before we started I could I could go on and on about different projects, because I have that ADHD squirrel mind. But I'll stop, stop there, and we can continue the conversation. Yeah, no, I think, you know, all of the things that you just mentioned are exactly why I wanted to have this conversation with you, I think, you know, a lot of the work that you're doing, all the work that you're doing is incredible. And I know it comes from a huge need. So I want to kind of like back up a little bit about, you know, the autistic community and finding employment, you know, one of the things having worked with adults and and also with parents who are concerned about their adult children, trying to find employment. You know, so many times there are there's, there's underemployment. There's a high rate of unemployment. And, you know, it's, it can be frustrating, because I think, for everyone involved, because it's like, I know that there's definitely something here that we can find, but it's so hard sometimes to find that right fit. And also just sometimes, you know, others, like you're saying other things can kind of get in the way as well, you know, anxiety. And I mean, anxiety is there for everyone looking for jobs. But you know, it could also, you know, needing to be able to create the right environment, perhaps some sensory sensitivities, things like that. So it sounds like a lot of the work you're doing is to help with, you know, mitigate some of that, but let's kind of let's kind of step back. So we have, you know, I have a large adult population that listens to the podcast, as well as parents and educators. But, you know, what, what we might see is, oh, gosh, this is really frustrating, or how do we prepare someone for the work world? So what are some of the things that we see that might be challenging? I mentioned a couple of them. But I'd love to hear your perspective on that.

When I hear that question, it's such a complex question that can we could dissect it into multiple parts. There's, you know, what is the autistic person or those with a similar neurological profile? What do they have within them internally that are challenges and as well as as gifts and things that they can offer to the workplace and then there's the barriers in the workplace itself, trying to get into the workplace.

There's also surviving, which I think is an appropriate word surviving the, the bullying and the stereotypes and the myths that happen in academic settings and the workplace and in general communities. Right. So we're, it's a very complex question what you've asked, when I'm looking at

some of the internal struggles and challenges of autistic people that itself could be a full hour to podcast, we could we could share together, right? When it comes to the workplace, one of the number one things that that comes up is should I disclose or not? Should I should I be upfront, and

in my research, I found that most people who are autistic who disclose regret it. So we still have a very long way to go. And there's another study that points to white collared workers who have disabilities, and those with hidden disabilities, only 4% felt comfortable or would disclose a hidden disability. So we're coming against a broken system, where we're not able to bring our full self to work in most cases. And because of that, people don't have that psychological safety, those systems aren't in place. So people aren't always feeling comfortable with disclosing, which leaves some autistic people with, you know, three paths they can take, they don't disclose at all, and they risk not getting the support that they might need, or the understanding that they might need. They risk disclosing and facing those stereotypes that implicit and explicit bias on those inferior and superior constructs that are continually in place.

Or they can partially disclose. That's where what I recommend right now for for most people who asked me, What would I do? At this point, if I went back into the job market, and for a traditional job role, 40 hour a week, let's say, as a supervisor in a corporation, well, I couldn't do this, because my name is all over the place, find out. But let's just say it wasn't, I would probably partially disclose and talk about my sensory processing condition, and my dyslexia, because those are things that are attached to the stigma and these myths and and these false assumptions. If I were if it was a company that I felt was open to learning, and the culture was open to learning, perhaps I knew someone in HR, perhaps I have friend, their colleague there already, then I might approach it differently. And I might share some resources. And I want to let you know that you know, my wiring is unique. It doesn't make me any better than less than, but this is how I might present. And this is how millions of millions of people present and share similar neurology, so if you wouldn't mind, can I share a little bit about that with you and lead them to actual autistic people. And so that's one approach to the barrier of disclosing another barrier is a lot of programs and books, and I've read many of them

YouTubes articles, it's the same thing over and over again, which is trying to fit the square peg into the round hole. One what's really broken is the round hole, we really need to be focusing on reshaping that round hole into a square. So it fits more and more types of people. More and unique ways of presenting I call it the three keys presenting our processing, perceiving and presenting, you know, being a neuro variant, myself, I process perceive and present in different ways than this imaginary typical norm. I deviate from this normalcy of this Western society that's a mat made up. And instead of focusing on trying to pound me into a circle and make me into a circle, it makes so much more sense since there's millions and millions of us. If set of pounding millions and millions of us that we started to talk about how to reshape the door to get into the workplace, the door to fit into the workplace and not just fit in, because fit in means that I'm changing who I am, that I'm adapting aspects of myself. Bernie brown speaks about that and true belonging, but knowing I belong, not feeling I belong, but knowing I belong. So I recommend that we start focusing on how to get autistic people to act non autistic, which goes against their dignity, which goes against respecting them.

As individuals, and we focus on what's wrong with the workplace systems that haven't really been re examined and looked at for over 100 years, and that were established by people with privilege, not not non males, not people of underrepresented groups. So we have these broken systems in place. And even though these are very trying difficult times, there's a lot of hopeful transition happening because of this.

So that's the second part. So the disclosing part, the not pounding the the square peg, I'm a square peg, I love square pegs. I love dogs. I love, love weirdness.

And the other part is this imposter syndrome, and lack of self esteem wrapped up with the inability to sell self.

So the interviews are set up so much to be subjective.

They're set up to not really look at what is expected on the job description. And most job descriptions aren't well written. They're they're ambiguous, they lack clarity and like precision, they use language that is actually ableism or ageism, you know, like join our young group or, you know, come to a we're very active workplace. It's like, well, I hear that is a woman who has multiple disabilities, physical disabilities, I'm like, Okay, well, how active is this?

workplace? So we need to not only change the job descriptions, but look at the interview process, the interview questions, and and that's what I specialize in, I actually consult with fortune 500 companies, and talk about how do we change this recruitment process from the from the ground up, and make it more accessible? So again, I'm not putting the pressure on the autistic person, what do we need to do to train them? What do we need to help them, but putting it back at the accountability of these people who hold the power who hold the privilege, who hold the resources, the money, the time, the branding, to spread, to spread this awareness. In the meanwhile, we don't live in an ideal world. And I know that I'm an INFJ idealist.

We don't live in an ideal world. And I could go off on watch the HBO special on what's wrong with personality or personality tests. But anyways,

since we don't live in an ideal world, you know, for the time being, we need to be our own self advocates, to connect with other autistic role models, like people that you have on this show, this podcast,

educate ourselves know, what does it mean to for me to be autistic. For me, it's an it's a huge part of my existence, and it's a part of my high interest focus. But for my middle son, it's really not a part of his life. He,

he manages very well, he doesn't need any support system. So I mean, it took a long time to get where he's at Now, a lot of hard work and support.

He doesn't consider that really a part of his identity, but it's just a part of how his brain works. So for each of us, who are on the spectrum, what does it mean to us? And how much of that is going to be involved in the workplace, if any? And once we identify that, then, then how are we going to build this support group and those resources around us. So once we get our foot in the door, we can be ourselves. Because we know how much damaging comes with masking and pretending and putting on a front. It's not only emotional psychological damage, but it's physical damage, you know, it can lead to mental breakdowns, and to lower and lower self esteem and not being seen not being valued. And then you have a worker who's not really contributing 100%, who doesn't really want to be there, because they're not seen and valued for who there are. So that in a nutshell, I hope I made some sense, but it's such a common

areas that I would go to first.

Yeah, yeah, no. So I want to kind of break that down into two things. I mean, what you just said, really struck me because I think and I don't know, you know, again, I'm gonna speak from my own experience. I know working I worked in the investment banking industry as my first job out of college and right again, I was one of the few women working in a, you know, predominantly male role than I moved into it so that again, I did the same thing he can. But But I remember thinking as I took on those positions, I recognize that I'm a woman and I'm in this environment and I have to kind of suck it up. I'm gonna have to basically mask and fit in so that I can get my work done. And yes, my work spoke for itself and so on as we move through, but, but there was this exhaustion when I would get

At home, right where it's, it's, I really just didn't want to have I had to take the makeup off, I had to take the suit off, like, you know, I was still in the days of you had to still wear a skirt to work and it was just crazy. So think about that. And I think some people feel like, well, you always kind of have to put on, you know, and again, we don't live in an ideal world. I wish we did. I'm like you but you know, well, we all kind of have to fake it till we make it kind of thing. And and I feel like, and I think some people might think of it the same way maybe who aren't experienced experiencing it themselves firsthand, but might say, well, we all have to kind of fake it till we make it until we get there. We all have to do that. But But I want to help people who aren't experiencing it the same way as what I think you're talking about. Understand what that might really feel like, you know, I have my own perspective. But I'm, I'm hoping you can help our listeners kind of understand what that might feel like. Other than the typical, I got to kind of Oh, what do people wear at work? And what uh, you know, like, that kind of stuff is kind of everybody works with that. But what How is it? How is it different in the sense that you're talking about?

My brain is shooting off in like, 20 different?

I mean, that's such an insightful question.

One thing that comes to mind, a lot of times I'm thinking on multiple railroad tracks, I don't know how it's possible to be thinking two things that once I

Wow. So

pressure aside, that I'm probably not going to convince anyone out there, but a few people.

Know, I'm not here to convince whatever anyone takes away that helps them is what's meant to be.

So there's the social norms that are known. What you were what you see on the outside, what your job description, hopefully outlines, with enough clarity. When it's time for break when it's time to lunch, and lunch, if you're not working remotely. Those are things that are known, but the workplace is filled with a lot of unknowns that don't make a lot of sense. One thing we're doing at ultra noughts is we have handbooks about the unspoken norms. For example, what's expected in an email, when I first started working there, like Oh, your emails are really long.

Let's let's talk about a different way we can communicate. And so I helped to create handbooks of these unspoken norms. For the autistic person going into the workplace, it's more than just trying to fit into what everyone else is trying to fit into, you know, the social hierarchy. And you know, some of that stuff can be quite obvious or even graphed out. So you know, your supervisor is you know who your co workers are, if you're a supervisor, you know, you're the supervisor, or the owner. But there's many things in the workplace that are salient that aren't there that they're not there that you would know, firsthand, especially if you have a unique wiring.

How much How many times should I contact my supervisor? How do I contact my supervisor? What do I say when they say something to me? Like, can I see you in my office? Does that mean I'm in trouble? When I receive an agenda, does that mean that's the only things we're talking about? And do I have to come to this meeting? There are so many questions and so much thinking that goes on for the average

minus as a generalization. You know, I'm one autistic person, but I have corresponded with a lot of people. We're going off in all different directions, we're trying to maneuver through this workplace. And if we can't be ourselves, and be able to ask those questions and understand the procedures and processes were under extreme amount of internal pressure to navigate just day to day so we're, you've heard the disability philosophy about you know, the Spoon Theory. So my spoons, my energy, my emotional and physical energy might be zapped by lunch, because I've been working 10 times more than another person because I'm not only focusing on my work, giving it my very best and having sometimes to overcompensate because I'm underrepresented person to prove myself which happens with women, which happens with our black and brown friends what's happens with LGBTQIA it's like, Okay, I need to over prove myself so you'll accept me right, because I haven't been accepted in the past. So I'm not only trying to over prove myself overwork, but I've been bombarded with all these what ifs, am I doing it this way, the right way, is this the wrong way. And then there's also the aspect of object permanence, where I found in a lot of people who have unique wiring, a variation in their neurology

That there just because it has existed the day before. Or the moment before or the hour before, doesn't mean it exists. Now, the classic example is when you take a toddler and you put a stuffed animal over it, a stuffed animal and you put a blanket over the stuffed animal and the toddler doesn't know it's still there, that's, you know that that's object permanence. And object permanence for me, is reflected in the workplace where if my boss told me, we're just so excited, you're part of this company. And I'm so glad that we hired you, and you're doing such a fantastic job. That feels great in that moment, by the next day, it's erased from my memory, I don't know if it really, really exists. So there's, there's, again, so many different complexities. And I'm trying to just walk if I'm just trying to walk through a workplace, stuffing all my questions, wondering if I'm doing a good enough job, wondering if I followed the assignment correctly wondering if I if I've overstepped and said the wrong thing to my colleague, that puts so much pressure on me, and then I can't be a top performer.

And the opposite if we create a space where I'm not having to mask and this is extremely more

escalated. I don't know the word I'm looking for, but extremely more detrimental for when we talk about intersectionality. So I've had conversations with my black colleagues, black friends, about how they're not only autistic and having to overcompensate for that and those biases and those stereotypes, they're also having to prove themselves once again, because they're not white, or a woman having to prove themselves again, because they're not male. So the complexities of masking, they're even become more detrimental to the health and the physical well being. So contrast if we had a psychological well being and environment and we can talk more about that what that looks like a place of belonging, then I can enter the workplace and millions of other people can enter the workplace, despite their neurology, neurotypical, non neurotypical,

and be relieved of those burdens, and be able to give more than 100%, take less sick days, take, have more attention to projects, make more connections and work across teams because they are able to be themselves. And once you're able to be yourself, you're able to be seen and heard and valued. And know that you're being valued for who you are not something you're having to perform to be.

Yeah, no, I think that that's, that's super powerful. And it you know, you I know, you've started talking about that work environment piece. But I think,

I mean, maybe the word that came to mind for me was magnified, right? So if we already have some things that are going to, you know, make us anxious, or kind of stress us out, and then we have this added layer, you know, and it's I think it can be multi layered, then we just magnified, you know, what the experience at work could be like, and I think something we, we, you know, I'd like to also add as another layer before we start talking about how maybe employers are those of us helping people to get prepared for employment would look like is you I think the other layer is what are some of those myths and stereotypes that people you know, hear when they are kind of perceive or think about?

When we say someone who is autistics particularly in the workplace, because I think, you know, I mean, I think we'd all be lying if all of us didn't say we had some kind of expectation, when we're working with someone who fits, some has some label, whatever that label is, we probably all have some sort of, you know, you know, preconceived idea of what that might look like, even if we try not to, or we were like, gonna, we're not gonna think we're gonna we're just going to approach each person uniquely. But But I think that is the other layer that happens because then I feel like we someone then has to kind of, again, disprove whatever the stereotype is. And then right and then still also be able to prove their their worth, even though it shouldn't have to be a thing but like, what, you know, how what their quality of work is, and what their you know, social relationships are at work and so on. So, what are some of those myths and, and stereotypes that people might bring to the table as a potential employer or as an educator or a parent? Does anybody right? That's, yeah, that's a fantastic questions so relevant for the times and so important.

So but by human nature, we classify and we put things into boxes, that's how we're wired. That's how we're all made and stuff just non autistic people that thought

Just two people two, we all classify we all categorize we all, that's how we make sense of this, these images and our sensory processing. So we're each working against our own organic nature.

Something that doesn't happen in every field. So diversity and inclusion is very unique in that way, as we're working against our human nature, we're working together against our own implicit biases that we really don't know, that we're doing.

And when we're talking about stereotypes, a lot of those evolved from that need to box people to put labels on people. I think the DSM five has over 300 different labels now.

And it just keeps growing and growing. And we can get in a whole conversation about my thoughts there. And I will skip

I always have to read track my train, you know, the track going this way.

My number one Strength Finders learner and so I'm constantly learning and then I have too much in my inbox.

So So back to the topic, um, the stereotypes. So one thing I didn't mention is, because of my blogging about 10 years ago, I ended up writing a traits list for autistic people at the time, it was for females with Asperger's, that was the terminology then before 213 2013. And

now it's the autistic trait list, because a lot has changed. And we've learned a lot in the last 10 years. And it's been referred to by 1000s and 1000s of people and uses a support diagnostic tool and counseling offices and what have you. And because of that traits list, I've been contacted by 1000s of people who have either received the diagnoses or tried to go and get a diagnosis, and been able to collect a lot of anecdotal stories and narratives and experiences. And unfortunately, most of them are very disheartening. Sometimes bring me to tears still could bring me to tears, a lot of what's still happening in

the industry of psychology, psychiatry, mental health well being. neurology is a deficit model and of autistic being autistic, and a lot of old stereotypes and myths that aren't true. So what I hear from people who write to me or who I have conversations with,

some of the same things that were happening 1020 years ago are still happening today. And these are by trained professionals, where they're seeking out a diagnosis, especially those who are non male.

And especially those who present Well, perhaps because of masking, they're being accused of making up their their perceived autism, for attention of being a hypochondriac. They're citing that they cannot be on the autism spectrum, because they can dress well, that they've been married, or are married, that they're in a relationship, that they have children, that they can make eye contact,

that they have good hygiene,

that they're not a white, young male.

So what we're seeing over and over again, is, which is a common theme in our Western society is the oppressed, underrepresented groups are not getting the support they need, if they even have the resources in first place to find that support. And beyond that, they're being shamed and rejected.

All of those things, all those assumptions I just mentioned that people share with me, those are all stereotypes, those are all miss the biggest and most harmful one that I that we're we're having headway but I still see sites connected to autism. in the workplace, either neuro diversity in the workplace forums, I still see sites that are promoted that say how autistic people lack imagination and empathy.

Those are probably the two biggest harmful ones. Because why would anyone want to hire someone who doesn't have empathy, or imagination, right? And that is 102 110,000 billion percent false. What we're finding is most autistic people I'm sure you've heard, have more than ample empathy and sometimes too much empathy. And that we often struggle with processing our emotions and naming those emotions. And that's another neurological condition.

And also, there's a double empathy problem, where it's now been shown in research and in studies, that it's not the sole responsibility of the autistic person or the ADHD or, or the gifted intellect. I also have been diagnosed with gifted intellect it's not their responsibility to make some

Someone else, understand them and be seen.

It's a mutual back and forth conversation. It's just as much the non autistic person's responsibility to understand the autistic person as it is the autistic person to understand the neurotypical person, and that it's a give and take. And they were We were theorized at one time of having this mind blindness and not understanding non autistics, it actually goes two ways. If we're going to say that autistic people have mind blindness, then non autistic people have mind blindness, towards autistics. We had a gathering about two years ago, in our house two and a half days with over 35 people from around the world, some as far as Australia, one as far as Australia, and New York, and California, and Oregon, and Texas, have mostly all autistics probably 95%. And we gathered for two full days and did not have any social deficits. We did not experience any lack of empathy, any lack of connectivity. In fact, I have a letter that I screenshot and took a picture of that says it was one of the most profound me meetings and gatherings of their life, it changed their life.

So another myth is that we have these huge social deficits, we only have social deficits, when compared to the Western society norm of what is, it doesn't mean to communicate, we have vocal cord, by

you know, if you don't use your vocal cords, somehow you're not communicating or you don't have a high enough IQ. We have body language bias. I'm in a college program, I'm pursuing my doctorate in organizational and educational leadership and social justice. And in one of the books, one of the textbooks, it says the emotional IQ book, it talks about how, you know, if someone's not making eye contact, they're a liar. And like, really, this is where we're at.

Really, I mean, we just had the diversity, dignity roundtable guest speaker yesterday from non urban India, talk about how in India, it's not culturally acceptable and non urban areas to make eye contact in indigenous cultures, indigenous nations, a lot of it's not. So it's just it's this is random stuff people have put together to say this is not normal. So those are, those are some of the stereotypes that are that are still out there that you can tell are coming and I get a little bit excited. And the reason I do is because I have heard from so many people and had to share so not had to, but just the nature of me just share it in their pain and in their trials and in their tribulations. And I have a story I can share that happened to me related to that as well if we have time, but it just touches my heart that so many millions of people are being told that they're broken and need to fit into this cookie cutter. When we look at the world where all these non broken people are leading it, it's falling apart. We need more broken

we need more people to say you know I'm anxious I'm this I'm that and share our suffering and share our challenges and share our trials and our stories and our narratives like we're doing here. So the more people feel the courage to be themselves and so that these quote unquote broken people can start leading and, and using their integrity and their transparency and their honesty and their want for social justice, which we find in autistic people over and over and over again, to make radical change. And that's not to say someone who's not neurologically different Can't I always joke that my best friends are neurotypical You know, that's not to say that we all can't make this change. But if we're pushing out a large percentage of the population, neuro divergence is reaching, you know, 2030 40% when you put all the categories together,

what is that saying? What is that doing to our culture in our society? We need to get beyond this perfect brain in a jar. It's ridiculous. It's it's some illusion. We've all been been leading. And then that's where we're headed. And there's a lot of trailblazers out there doing fantastic work that I'm honored to know.

And so, hopefully, these stereotypes and these oppressions and this stigmatism will lead to better, better things. It is it is slowly leading to better things. Yeah, definitely. And I think having, you know, these types of conversations can help, you know, raise that awareness within people themselves and also, you know, within whatever type of work people are doing, and so, I know you're you do a huge amount of work and we started talking about that a little bit about how we can make the work environment it's funny you say, you're making it more of like a square hole instead of the round hole. I like, I think

as you were saying, and I was thinking more of like, you know, like those silicone molds where you can it just changes depending on the size of

a visual thinker here, but like I had no thought of like, wouldn't it be nice, I mean, I talked about individualization of, you know, education plans, and just working with having worked with people in performance development for years. It's always about the individual. It's about, you know, what, what are their strengths, and we all have areas that we're really good at, we want to continue nurturing those, and we want to build leadership in those. And then we all have things that we're working on, probably forever for some things, but but how do we then do that? So so how do we individualize that? So I'm, I'm curious about the work that you do, particularly, whether it's with ultra non or consulting for other organizations? What is that? What what are people doing? like? What does that look like? It's very exciting to me.

Thank you, it's exciting to me, too, you know, I go through so many, I have a spiky profile, which is very typical for most nerve divergent or nerve variant individuals where, you know, I am advanced and

pristine in some areas, and then I need a lot of support and challenges in other areas. And so I go throughout my days, moments, you know, like super spiked and excited about everything I'm doing. And then I have those moments of anticipatory anxiety and generalized anxiety and that imposter syndrome of I don't want to do this ever again. I don't know how many times my poor partner David, who's also on the spectrum, I don't know how many times I tell him, I can't do this anymore. I can't do this anymore. And he smiles and he nods, and he goes, okay, honey, and he just waits for the next day.

Of course, it doesn't help that I'm going through menopause, which is an up and coming, diversity inclusion discussions.

When you start tearing apart all that that's involved, that's a whole nother disability.

Me, right. So when you say, let's talk about these exciting things, I'm just picturing this spiky profile of Well, I'm excited right now.

I might go up in the corner and cry and say, I can't do this anymore.

I think to your point before earlier, just to kind of pause, I think we have to normalize that because I experienced the same exact thing. And it's like, one minute, I'm like, ready, you know, staying up late doing a whole bunch of stuff. And then next minute, it's like, oh, my gosh, how can I even like, make a meal for myself, you know, another time because it depends on the day. But I think some of that is really normal like that, that we're human, there is normal, right? If

we experience it's a shared experience, and it helps me to hear that from you. Just as when I present to other people, it helps them to hear that from me. And that goes back to that storytelling and creating that psychological safe space, where we can bring our full self, I'm fortunate to be able to do that because I have a secure job. And I'm confident in myself after years of of work and connecting with beautiful souls that remind me and mirror me of my beauty.

But we need to get to a place where we can go into the workplace, and we can be authentic without repercussions. And those repercussions aren't always direct. They're not always bullying and shaming. Sometimes they're like you're not getting a promotion or you're not being considered for something because well you're autistic, you won't be able to navigate workplace politics, or you're autistic. So you need to go to emotional IQ training. Oh, sorry, but there's lots of people

are and I've heard this before, who we entrust to our minds, and our brains, who are artistic. Many autistic people are doctors. There's a group of over 300 on Facebook or in the medical field. Many are teachers, many are psychologists and psychologists and mental health therapists. So these assumptions really block us so how do we get into the workplace have that psychological safety without the repercussions? That's the big thing. So what we're doing at ultra noughts is we are We started off with or I started off and the team I worked with and the CEO the co founders we started off with looking at what works best for autistic people. And the more and more I researched and studied and read and synthesize because as Temple Grandin speaks, Dr. Temple Grandin speaks on the bottom of processing where you take pieces from everywhere and then you synthesize it and make it into something different right and unique. So the more I did that with my brain in mind, who can be extremely annoying to time, sir brain and little voice in my head Lv I thought that time I called him. The more I did that, the more I realized, wait a minute. These are just best practice for every human being on the planet.

It doesn't make any sense to start putting everybody in boxes like I can't tell you how many times like in my consultancy work people say well

What's best for an ADHD and what's best for dyslexic and what's what's best for an autistic? It's like, no, if you want to do inclusion, don't segregate us more and label us and put us in the box and tell us what to do. It's like my autistic brain is like, stop get out of social normalcy.

Let's rethink the system, rethink the system. So what I found, I'm usually not this excited, but I planning for a big consultancy thing, and I'm nervous. So. Um,

so what I started to see was, these practices will work for people who have are highly sensitive human beings, for people who are going through divorce, who are going through relocation who have chronic pain conditions, who have any number of hidden disabilities, who have visual impairments who have had trauma, trauma, trauma in the workplace, maybe they don't have PTSD, but they have trauma.

So why would we single out three or four different labels, and say, hey, you're an ADHD or jackpot, if you're autistic jack, that we're gonna help you, yay. And we're gonna make you feel special and superior. But we're also going to squash you down and make you feel a little bit inferior, because we're going to make assumptions about you because you need a job coach, I don't think you do. And you need to go to this special training. And I'm going to tell you who you are as a person, and I'm going to put you in that box. So a lot of these autism at work now it's called neuro diversity work programs. And so I started the diversity with dignity Roundtable, they immediately bucks you, they immediately forced you to disclose to get the services. And then you're immediately stigmatized, there's no way around it. We are human beings. If you hear a word, like pit bull,

we categorize it, we pull on prior knowledge, no matter if that pit bull is the kindest, sweetest dog in the world. We pull on that power knowledge.

And now I forgot what we're talking about. But oh, universal design. So universal design is about taking the whole person. They're not their autism. You know, I'm autistic, I don't say with autism, but I'm not my whole being is not my, you know, my whole being is not being autistic. I'm also an artist, a poet, a teacher, a consultant, a partner, a mom of good friend. So it's bringing this whole person to the workplace, and how can I support you as a human being? And it's such a basic, like, I asked all Stanford neuro diversity is doing it a summit and they're using universal design, they're starting to say it now to write ultimates has been saying it for a few years now. It's such a basic aha concept. and academia University has been doing it for years. And it started off with architecture, with designing workplaces that were conducive to people with physical disabilities that could maneuver around the workplace. So it's expanding now. And I wrote an article about it on recruiter comm that I can share with you. It's expanding now to talk about how to create psychological safety and systems and processes and and cultures that are inclusive, truly inclusive.

We, we are going back to kindergarten in the workplace, because you'd be surprised at how many people in high level jobs high level.

privilege and power don't couldn't even tell you the difference between what a diversity is an inclusion is

they couldn't point to their inclusion measures. They couldn't point to inclusivity statement.

They couldn't tell you what is the difference between equity, equality, inclusion and belonging. So we might have these brilliant heads of dei or diversity inclusion in HR and maybe 75 80% of the workplace is so wanting to be conducive to inclusion and belonging. But the leaders aren't there. The structures not there. The the goals, the KPIs, I get that mixed up with my dyslexia, but that the goals and the benchmarks aren't built around inclusivity they're not built around people.

I call it I've coined it core inclusion and I think about it is an avocado with a pit in the middle and rainbows are shooting out everywhere. And I actually hired artistic artists to make that more me.

So I call it core inclusion. And if the pit of the avocado pit of an organization whether that's academic, the workplace, our faith house is inclusion. Then it really out radiates out but right now it's it's

it's that quick Botox

If you will, it's that quick injection of inclusion. And no wonder all these studies say, well, bias training doesn't work and inclusion training doesn't work. It's like, well, because we're not approaching it correctly, we're saying it's, it's an afterthought. It's, you know, it's the, it's the third appetizer before the meal. It's not even there as a core focus. And we're the way we go about

looking at and examining inclusion, and belonging

dictates role models, that we really don't care about it. Because it's an afterthought. It's meeting compliance, right? We're not taking the time to have those uncomfortable, brave spaces and have those conversations.

They're ultra nice is one of the few autism hiring companies, autumn hire initiatives, no diversity hiring initiatives, who has publicly agreed to have its employees take psychological safety surveys,

and to see how we psychologically feel, when we did a loneliness survey, and these are public, someone could access it when we did a loneliness survey pre COVID the loneliness statistics for the United States were 40% of people felt lonely pre COVID Can you imagine now, and ultra noughts even though we were a remote and our remote company only 10% felt lonely.

And after COVID you know what happened to that number?

Five personal? Well, yeah, because we're putting measures in place where people feel psychologically safe, that they're, they feel that they not only have a place at the table, but they're actually listened to. And they're not just the ones that are invited. But they're the invite biters.

I've been to presentations of presentations before where it was an all non autistic panel talking about autistic people, which we wouldn't do with any other

oppressed group. And they said how well we're inviting them. We're inviting them to this or, at I've heard this many times, and my and the pattern I'm seeing is know, if it's true inclusion, true, belonging worthy inviters, to we're inviting you.

Because if you're not the inviter, you don't have the power you don't have you don't have the agenda, you don't have the goals, you're you're just sitting on the sidelines.

So universal inclusion is about making everybody the insider.

And creating places like teen forums and community gatherings, and storytelling, where people like you and I, when you said Well, I feel that way, too. I feel like I can't handle life sometimes too. I'm paraphrasing, correct me if I'm wrong, yeah. And how that brings us closer as human beings. So when I supervise when I was a recruitment manager, that's how I lead. And it's contrary to you know, leaders need to be above and confident and never failing. That's a false fairy tale as well. The best leaders, in my opinion, is servant leaders, transparent leaders, they're vulnerable, and they talk about their flaws, they talk about their mistakes, because that enables me to come to work, and risk take and take mistakes and feel that I can do my best. And I'm not going to be fired and not going to be criticized or shame because I stepped a tiny bit out of someone else's box in line.

Right, and also that feeling of connectedness and also you can create an environment of learning in that type of space, I think whether it's, you know, in a classroom, or you know, or in the workplace, or in a family,

but you create that, where, you know, you people will can learn from maybe if I had a hard time with something, and I talked about maybe that hard time where we can learn together how maybe we can mitigate that in the future or how to make it better, you know, or at least hold space for the other person in all environments, not just in the workplace or, you know, whatever school, I think it's it should be a universal way of thinking. You said so many important things and just that, just that one statement, so many relevant, important insights. And you made me remember I was going to mention it earlier exactly what you just said, one of our higher level supervisors. I won't use any other definers I want to respect their

privacy. And I did ask permission if I could share this. Someone

in the, in the upper hierarchy of our company, at a company wide meeting a few months ago, I

shared for about 2025 minutes I don't even think was on the agenda

about their personal struggle with depression, depression and mental health illness.

And the chat room and in zoom was just lighting up with, I'm so glad I work here. Thank you so much. I feel like I belong, I understand, you know, I'm here for you. And it was one of the most beautiful things I've ever experienced in and outside of the workplace. That vulnerability, their vulnerability helped me come to terms as well with I struggle with situational depression. And as I mentioned, generalized anxiety and post traumatic stress syndrome.

It is now enabling me to relate to that person whom I work with, at a completely different level, at a human being level.

And he they,

to me, are so much more of a leader.

Because of that, there was no repercussion. There was no Fallout, it became a beautiful story that I even shared in an article that I shared publicly about what we're doing at the company.

Those types of stories, those types of experiences, we need people in positions of power to start being vulnerable, and to start talking about what it is to be a human being. And we need the non autistics to stop masking

all the time.

Right, right, right. So one of the unique things we're doing at ultra knots, that can somebody better than anything else and kind of brings all this together is instead of what some companies do is assigning a job coach to autistic people.

Assuming in competence, right. Some autistic people require that some non autistic people require job coaches, it's not an artistic thing. And there's nothing wrong with having a job coach, my partner is a job coach, I support it wholeheartedly. I've used a job coach, I've used a job coach many times, there's nothing wrong with it. What's not okay is assuming and assigning someone a job coach when they don't, they might not need it. And so what we do differently at ultra noughts is our job coach is free to everyone.

unlimited access, they can go every week.

And so not only autistic people and non autistic, but guess what, guess what the neurology of our job coaches.

They're autistic.

That sums it up how we're doing it differently. we're stepping out of this round hole, right? Your silicon, your flexibility

is like rising up like, you know, water from a geyser. And we're just walking across the silicon and we're jumping off, goodbye.

This ain't working. And

so I feel very blessed, very fortunate that I was given the freedom to create some of these procedures and processes and to collaborate with people of all different types of minds, to put these systems in places brilliant minds and, and supportive minds, supportive people. And that's another aspect of universal design. inclusivity, which I call core inclusion is when they hired me, as I think I mentioned before, I didn't have any recruitment experience.

I didn't have a degree in business. I hadn't had any work experience in recent years. But at that point, at that very baby stage of the company, the leaders were able to see beyond those traditional means of hiring someone. And had they not had that universal design lens, which they didn't even know they were using, which we didn't even know was happening. I never would have been hired. And I never would have been given the opportunity to have these platforms to be on these platforms with people like you are making a huge difference in spreading acceptance and awareness. So it's a full circle. It's a it's a full circle. And that's probably what excites me the most is seeing that cyclic journey of where we started and where we are now and how it kind of all goes back to. We're practicing what we practice so that we could practice it you know?

And it will be it will be an you know, it will be an evolution and it will keep pushing

forward and thank you so much for your words. Because it it is part of I mean, it's all of why I do what I do. So, I appreciate that and with where can people find if they want to connect and learn more about your organization and the work that you do? Because you know, I have a feeling people are gonna want to start looking for things after they hear a conversation, where can they find you? Um,

so the easiest place to find me is under my, I have both things listed on my LinkedIn profile Marcelle Ciampi, aka Samantha craft on LinkedIn, I post a lot of resources. There, I just posted a different brains, video, a panel of employment, and autistic people you might be interested in that.

I share articles that I've written there. They can read more about this topic. If they Google my name and LinkedIn articles. I think I've written like, I don't remember 20 some odd articles on this topic. They can reach out to me at ultra knots. My email is Marcelle at ultra And it's you ltr. A ultra not an au Ts, and it's co not c o

Direct messaged me on LinkedIn. I'm also Samantha Craft on Facebook, they can find me there

at the diversity with dignity roundtable for cert for sure. Everyone's welcome to join from all walks of life all around the globe. It's about equality. autistic people aren't better less than we're all in this together. We're all human beings. They can find the ultra noughts webinars that I'll post and I do several keynotes and presentations. I'll be keynoting

at Chico University in California, some in South Dakota, I'm also going to be keynoting at a virtual India in conference in India. And I can share those links. I do share those links on LinkedIn so people can join if they want.

So yeah, those are different ways to reach out to me, I will say that right now.

I'm asking a lot of people if they want to learn more about this topic to join our roundtable because I don't have enough of me

to respond to everyone in the way I'd love to respond. You know, it's a mixed bag, I love that more acceptance and awareness is being spread. But at the same time, I do miss being able to have that, that intimate one on one conversations with a lot of people. So the diversity, dignity roundtables, a good place to interact and ask questions. And the great thing about that is it's not just me, but it's a lot of other experts and a lot of other people with fantastic knowledge from different walks of life who can share their experiences. So that not just learning from me that way. And I much prefer that. Okay, great. Thank you so much for sharing all of that. And for, you know, spending this time with me today. And you know, hopefully we can find some other topics that we can talk about, I think I think we could find a lot of things for sure. Yes, and if I could, I could just say one quote, but I have like 10. So funny have like 10 index cards in front of me. And I didn't really look at hardly any of them. But there's just one

is from john O'Donoghue, who wrote the autumn car, which means soul friend. And he said that work is a place where the soul can enjoy becoming visible and present. The rich, unknown, reserved and precious within us can emerge into visible form.

And that is what I hope one day many of us will be fortunate enough to, if not create them to find as a place where we can be enjoy becoming visible and present.

Yeah, I think that helps sum up why work is so important. As part of our as part of our lives.

I like that. Thank you. You're welcome. Thank you so much for sharing your time and your energy and following my my squirrel Enos conversation. Oh, it's great. I appreciate it very much. Thank you, and thank you for being here. I appreciate your time. I'll talk to you soon. Okay. All right. Bye. Bye. Keep in touch. Bye bye. Thank you.

Thanks for listening to autism in real life. This is Ilia Walsh. And if you like the show, please hit subscribe so you can get notified each time a new episode is released. I also offer training, consultations and parent coaching and would love to help you in any way that I can. You can check out my offerings at and when you join

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