Overview

Project Description:

The Autistic Voices Project (AVP) was prompted by the need to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on employment experiences amongst Autistic Canadians, specifically, unique challenges faced and opportunities that have emerged. The purpose of the AVP is to bring the experiences of Autistic Canadians to the forefront and highlight the criticality of their employment-related experiences during COVID-19.

By hearing from those with lived experiences navigating the novel COVID-19 world in the realm of employment, we’ve crafted powerful, thought-provoking video outputs that we hope will identify what we can do moving forward, to create autism-confident workplaces in a world beyond COVID-19.

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To achieve project aims, we had a two-step process. First, our team conducted a research and grey literature review to understand the scope of employment, both internationally and across Canada, for persons on the autism spectrum during COVID-19. Second, informed by the review, we led interviews and conversed with Autistic Canadians to capture their employment experiences during the pandemic. To best represent the pertinent experiences of persons on the spectrum, we developed impactful lived experience testimonial videos and a written narrative summary that highlights challenges faced, opportunities emerged, job role changes, supports received, and the impact of COVID-19 on mental health.

Project Outputs:

Literature Review

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This literature review was conducted to gauge the current scope of information and evidence pertaining to COVID-19 and employment for persons on the autism spectrum. The literature review focuses on the following topics: 1) generic search of employment experiences prior to COVID-19, 2) employment and COVID-19 for the broader disability population, 3) COVID-19, employment, and persons on the autism spectrum at the international scale, and 4) COVID-19, employment and persons on the autism spectrum in the Canadian context.

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Lived Experience Testimonial Videos

For this project, we ran informal interviews and had conversations with 30 Autistic Canadians from Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Quebec, and New Brunswick. Our lived experience testimonial videos were developed and edited, in collaboration with and co-led by a person on the autism spectrum and grouped into 7 categories: 1) Introduction, 2) job role changes, 3) challenges, 4) benefits/opportunities, 5) supports, 6) mental health, and 7) closing remarks/advice.

Introduction

Supports

Role Changes

Challenges

Opportunities

Well-being

Closing Remarks & Advice

Narrative Summary

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The narrative summary provides an overview of key themes found from the interviews we conducted and highlights the overarching content from our lived experience testimonial videos.

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The Employment Recovery Project & The Inclusive Workplace

The Autistic Voices Project (AVP) was conducted in partnership with Inclusion Canada, funded under the Employment Recovery Project (ERP). The ERP is an initiative aimed to enhance inclusion at work for persons on the autism spectrum and/or with intellectual disabilities, specifically, by exploring and addressing arising issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The AVP lived experience testimonial videos above can also be found on the ERP, The Inclusive Workplace website. This website is a bilingual resource hub for job seekers and workers who are on the autism spectrum or have an intellectual disability, businesses, and employment agencies during COVID-19 and beyond. It promotes inclusive hiring. It also helps businesses to build or create inclusive workplaces. This site has been developed with the support of the Government of Canada. To access the Inclusive Workplace website, click on the button below.