Celebrating Neurodiversity

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Dyllan Rafail, Test Automation Specialist, IBM.

World Autism Awareness Day ushers in a month of heightened awareness of neurodiversity issues at the national and global levels. As the neurotypical population seeks to increase its understanding of issues related to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), it is important to recognize and appreciate the diversity within the ASD community.

Individuals with ASD or other learning disabilities, are actually part of the much broader range that includes people with all level of abilities or “different abilities.” The major distinction between individuals with ASD and the neurotypical population is perspective. Individuals with ASD see the world from perspectives that are complementary (versus contradictory) to the mainstream.

When neurodiversity works, people with ASD can help organizations break free from hide-bound approaches to problem solving. Through the IGNITE ASD Program, a partnership between IBM Global Business Services and Specialisterne, IBM GBS has learned that incorporating neurodiverse people into the workforce brings different perspectives that can help us deliver unique values in product development and client service.

“Neurodiversity is important because if there were no differences in the way that people thought…new ideas would not be created.” – Dyllan Rafail, Test Automation Specialist, and IBM IGNITE Program resource from CIC Lansing.

Over the last 15 months, IBM has onboarded six U.S. candidates that joined us through our partnership with Specialisterne, and we plan to hire five more employees through the program by the end of this year. Also this year, through the ASD program, IBM  plans to hire as many as 10 neurodiverse employees in Ballarat, Australia. The IBM ASD program also is working towards adding employees in Argentina, Brazil and Canada to those already in Australia and the U.S. Our clients have been delighted with the expert service they have received from this new group of IBMers.

IBM also is focusing its technical expertise and commitments to service on assisting neurodiverse populations and persons with other disabilities. For example, our Content Clarifier uses Watson AI machine learning and natural language processing to make reading, writing and comprehending content easier. Teacher Advisor With Watson – the free, web-based tool that’s helping K-through-8 teachers save time planning math and science lessons – recently incorporated data from the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) to help teachers engage the one-in-five students in their classrooms with learning or attention issues.

IBM Volunteers in China, India and the U.S. are helping students with learning disabilities realize their potential, using music instruction to help children with ASD improve their social skills, and contributing board service to NGOs that serve people with ASD. And after using an IBM Impact Grant to create a new model for autism screening in Turkey, our partner the Tohum Austim Foundation has just been recognized with the “2019 Untold Stories of Global Health” award by the Consortium of Universities for Global Health and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Global Health NOW journal.

In business and through service, IBM recognizes and celebrates the value of neurodiversity. Across our company, and in the communities where we live and do business, IBM and IBMers engage and assist persons with different abilities and unique perspectives in service to a more inclusive global society.


Homepage Image: IBMers, Dyllan Rafail , Robert J. Willing and Shane Fitzsimmons

North America CICs Quality & Test Competency Leader, IBM Global Business Services, and leader of the IGNITE ASD inclusivity program

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