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After launching its pilot program in June to hire more adults with autism, Ford Motor Company recently revealed its plans to expand the program in 2017. Ford's program, which is a collaboration with the Autism Alliance of Michigan, will add to its current network of four hires who are considered autistic; the publicized plans state that 12 to 24 additional hires are expected with the expansion.

The Dearborn-based automaker is one of more than 30 other local companies to lead the initiative. As the spectrum of autism becomes better understood, companies are becoming more receptive to onboarding employees with autism - for many participating companies, people with autism are considered underutilized, unique talent. The situation is a
win-win, since many people on the spectrum often face frustrating challenges when it comes to earning a living.  

As of now, the four adults hired as part of Ford's program have college degrees to work in its product development department, which is part of the world headquarters. They initially started with a temporary
status, but transitioned to regular employee status after the temp period. This isn't the first time Ford's put a spotlight on autism and diversity - learn more by watching the video below:


"When we started, we wanted to make sure we could do this and do it sustainably," Kirstin Queen, manager of diversity and inclusion at Ford, stated in a CrainsDetroit.com article. "The program was found to be very successful, and the supervisors have said these individuals brought a new energy that spread to other employees." Although the program originally committed to employing five workers, two part-time positions ended up being combined to create a single full-time position - all because one particular candidate was performing particularly well, and representatives of the Blue Oval wanted to acknowledge the individual's reputable work.

To ensure that Ford's existing employee base and
team of managers were properly prepared to interact with their new co-workers, Autism Alliance conducted a special training session to provide information and assets. As reported on CrainsDetroit, "The challenge of employing an adult with autism, while all are different, usually lies in the realm of social interactions. Employees with autism can lack social skills and social imagination and are often brutally honest, which can come across as rudeness," which can startle or upset employees who aren't educated about the effects of autism on one's behavior. However, the program enforces the idea that an autistic individual's setbacks need not be dealbreakers. After all, a 2014 study revealed that over half of people diagnosed with autism have average to above-average intelligence.

Already, the newly opened positions are expected to be filled in January of 2017 as Ford expands the new hires into its information technology and digital innovation departments. To learn more about the program, stop by Sound Ford in Seattle, Washington and talk to any of our representatives today.