Autism Awareness Month — What We Can Learn in Business

March 31, 2016 Mark Gibbons


by Chauncey Kupferschmid, Vice President Sales, SmartLinx Solutions

April 1, 2016

REED-Logo-and-IMG_8954The eighth annual World Autism Awareness Day is April 2. The entire month of April, 2016, is designated as Autism Awareness month. Each year, autism organizations and businesses around the world celebrate Autism Awareness Day and Month with unique fundraising and awareness-raising events. We hope you will celebrate today and recognize the immense contribution and compassion that comes along with Autism Awareness Month. At SmartLinx, we have chosen to honor, celebrate, and make contributions to The REED Academy. This amazing team work hard each day to make an impact and positively change the lives of autistic children, and their families.


The Autism Awareness Puzzle Ribbon is the most recognized symbol of the autism community in the world. Autism prevalence is now one in every 68 children in America. We encourage you to show your support for people with autism by wearing the Autism Awareness Puzzle Ribbon — as a pin on your shirt, a magnet on your car, a badge on your blog, a printed sheet of paper on your desk, a screen saver, or even your Facebook profile picture — and educate folks on the potential of people with autism!

Five key themes are tied to Autism Awareness Month, which starts on April 1 and continues through April 30. Those key themes are, in no specific order:

  1. Awareness
  2. Action
  3. Inclusion
  4. Acceptance
  5. Appreciation

These traits are applicable in the business world as well, and we can understand more about Autism by putting into practice what is in front of us each day. That is, the opportunity to make a significant impact, one person, one interaction, at a time. Whether in our own homes, work, or social settings, how we engage and treat people can make all of us stronger and more effective citizens in our respective communities. These five traits are crucial for leaders to exhibit and place into practice when building strong company cultures and brands.



Awareness — Self-awareness & Cultural Awareness

Being self-aware and present, in any setting, is the best gift you can give yourself. Self-awareness is a personal understanding of your own thoughts, needs, desires, failings, habits, and everything else that makes you function. The more you know about yourself, the better you are at adapting life changes that suit your needs. Being self-aware enables us to be more realistic about ourselves and our judgments. The consistent result of being self-aware and present leads others, in turn, to trust and respect us for this behavior. Being self-aware enables us to balance thoughts, ideas, actions, with humility; creating our vision but being willing to actively listen to new ideas and other opinions. Teaching, leading by example, are all amplified with positive outcomes by being self-aware and present in every situation.

Cultural awareness becomes crucial when we have to interact with people from other cultures, which is a daily reality in life. People see, hear, interpret and evaluate things in many different ways. What is considered an appropriate behavior or action in one culture is often inappropriate in another one. Cultural awareness has become one of the most important business and social tools in almost every industry. With the globalization of business and commerce, increased diversity in the workplace and multicultural emphasis in society, understanding the cultures of those around you will enhance collaboration, understanding, productivity and alignment in the workplace.

Listening with the intent of understanding and being open to possibilities is something that most cultures have in common. Listen to your coworkers with a true intent to learn, displaying positive body language and words of affirmation during the conversation. Listening intently allows you to read between the lines for any gray area, pay attention to the way your coworkers say things and ask questions if anything is not understood or unclear. They will recognize your willingness to listen and appreciate being asked to explain an unclear point.


Taking daily action and being proactive sets the foundation for positive outcomes.  One action that I choose to follow goes like this:  “I am responsible for me, and I can choose.” Every person in any company can be a leader. Leading by example with solid, core principals, delivers results. Here are a few points for consideration:

Pay crisp attention and focus on others’ needs and consider how your words, gestures, expressions, and actions will impact others before you speak or interact. Approach each conversation with respect, class, and dignity, regardless of whether you believe that the other person’s behaviors “earn” that respect.

Have the right “intent” in your communications. During any interaction, listen to the other person without interruption and practice effective listening techniques.  If you are in the same room, or on a web meeting, having direct eye contact deepens the “intent to listen and understand” as long as you are paying attention, engaged, and not distracted.   The awareness of respect that you display in all areas of your communications, including what you say, how you say it, your voice tone, and the body language that you demonstrate strengthen your intent to effectively communicate.

Appreciate and deeply respect the value of opinions other than your own. Be cognizant and recognize that it does not mean you agree with an opinion when you listen, ask for clarification of what was said, and ask questions to gain an understanding of others’ opinions. In situations where disagreement results, learn to “agree to disagree” respectfully, because you listened and took into considerations others opinions.


One of the most important issues that any employer faces today may be developing a strategy that promotes inclusion. What is inclusion? Workplace inclusion encompasses any company mandate or policy that promotes diversity and equality. As a country, we have made tremendous strides in the past decade alone in the expansion and open acceptance of inclusion as part of mainstream business culture. Much of this starts at home with parents, in schools with teachers and faculty, where an inclusive mindset sets the direction of our children and future generation of leaders.

When you develop a core cultural fabric of inclusion that embraces a multicultural workforce you are effectively demonstrating to each employee, their spouses, partners, family and loved ones, that they are a valuable asset, regardless of gender, race, age,  physical or mental disability.

Any company diversity initiatives should also provide equal and ample opportunity that is inclusive of all employees in programs from promotional and career advancement opportunities, to social activities, seminars and other training sessions that enhance skill sets and opportunities for your employee community. This will help to enhance the value of both your consumer and employer brands as well.


Being accepted is a natural human desire. From childhood through being an adult, acceptance plays a major part in shaping how we think, act, behave, and how we accept others also has a direct effect on our nonstop development of emotional maturity.

Step up to the plate and lead by example. Regardless of your title, location or positions, if you notice that some people at work are ignored or not accepted because they come from a different culture or have a different personality, it’s up to you to do something about it. Make a point to accept other, initial interactions, and engage with those in your work group that others choose to ignore or avoid. Do not mistake an introvert personality as being aloof. It may take a bit of extra effort and patience, but the rewards and richness of acceptance have lasting positive results.

Personal growth and strong leaders also demonstrate compassion and kindness. Take a minute to speak with the people who provide security to your buildings, janitorial or maintenance services, and anyone who contributes to your business and staff’s environment. Your behavior sets an example that helps to influence the way others behave.

Inspire team participation, always, always!  Welcome and understand the gift of diversity among team members, showing them that it is their differences that can make a program or project more successful because everyone has something valuable to contribute. By recognizing key factors that makes each person special and unique, you are promoting acceptance of each person.


When was the last time you were recognized for an accomplishment, success, or accolade at your job? What feelings did you have when this happened? Whether it’s a simple “thank you” or a team lunch thrown on your behalf, everyone likes to be appreciated!

Appreciation is good for employee morale, motivation, collaboration and retention. In addition, showing appreciation or gratitude towards co-workers creates more social and lasting relationships. Being humble, thankful, and implementing gratitude into your company culture, employees are more willing to spread their positive feelings with others.


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