Forbes: Intuit’s new incredible benefit!

Forbes.com contributor Leah Binder wrote this amazing article about Intuit’s decision to partner with Rethink Benefits during Autism Awareness Month in April 2017.

Intuit launched it’s newest employee benefit after conducting  a series of interviews with employees across the globe. Their Global Benefits Leader Sarah Lacuna stated We support families in all areas of their lives, in general so our employees can do the best work of their lives at Intuit.”

Intuit campus sign

Rethink is an effective web-based program that puts clinical best practice treatment solutions at your employees’ fingertips. Reduce stress and increase productivity by providing your employees with the tools and resources they need to understand, teach and communicate better with their child.

 

How employers can better support the caregivers in their workforces

Working Mother’s featured an article on “The Amazing Ways the Working Mother 100 Best Companies Help Their Employees with Kids (Particularly Those with Special Needs)” 

Highlighting, how these companies know that helping moms with their children’s challenges is the best way to keep them loyal, engaged and productive.

Monsanto ’s employee Kim relies on resources from the Rethink autism-support website to set goals and track progress for her son Gavin, who is 13 and has been diagnosed with Asperger’s. She had a phone consultation with a behavior therapist whose suggestions helped her son with social skills. “He’s definitely made some strides this year, starting conversations that he otherwise would not have,” she says.

How Parents Can Boost Social and Emotional Learning At Home

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is a hot topic in schools these days. Why? Not only is there good research to show its effectiveness in the areas of mental health, social skills, and academic achievement, but it also makes good sense. According to the NBC News State of Parenting Poll, 54% of parents reported strong social and communication skills as the most important contributors to their child’s future success – more important than any other skill sets! Why shouldn’t schools be fostering social and emotional skills, and why shouldn’t parents be taking an interest in it?

What is SEL? According to CASEL.org, SEL is made up of evidence-based practices that highlight the way we understand, use, and manage emotions to learn. Put another way, it’s the process by which we acquire and apply knowledge, attitudes, and skills needed to:

  1. Understand emotions
  2. Set and achieve goals
  3. Feel and show empathy for others
  4. Establish and maintain health relationships
  5. Make responsible decisions

These may seem like diverse skills, but they are quite connected in everyday life. In fact, SEL is made up of five interrelated cognitive, effective, and behavioral competencies. Let’s examine each competency and some tips for parents to foster these skills:

Self-Awareness – The ability to recognize our own emotions, thoughts, and values, and how they influence behavior. It’s also the ability to accurately assess our strengths and limitations with a sense of confidence, optimism, and a “growth mindset” (which means through effort and good teaching, our talents and skills can improve). Here are a few ways to help facilitate self-awareness:

  • Take time to identify or talk about feelings each day
  • Teach new words for feelings and tie them to experiences and facial expressions
  • Use books or TV to point out more complex emotions
  • Help your child recognize his/her strengths and abilities
  • Talk about your own emotions and how certain situations make you feel as a parent

Social Awareness – The ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures. It also includes the capacity to understand social and ethical norms for behavior and to recognize family, school, and community resources and supports. Here are suggestions to help facilitate social awareness:

  • Read books and point out how characters may be feeling
  • Talk about real-life social interactions (the cashier’s body language, tone, eye contact)
  • Expose your child to people who are different than themselves and teach how to appreciate new perspectives
  • Truly listen to your child (“When I think about it like that, I can see where you’re coming from”)
  • Talk about social issues such as immigration, discrimination, and bullying
  • Set rules about social life together (curfew, dating, consequences)

Relationship Skills – The ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups. It also includes proficiency in communicating clearly, listening well, cooperating with others, resisting inappropriate social pressure, negotiating conflict constructively, and seeking and offering help when needed. Here are a few ways to help facilitate relationship skills:

  • Model healthy relationships with other adults in front of your children
  • Teach conversation skills (eye contact, first impressions, asking questions)
  • Teach conflict resolution skills
  • Talk about what makes a good friend and what does not
  • Notice your child’s social cues and point them out (especially incongruencies in words behavior)
  • Discuss peer pressure and respectful behavior including online behavior

Responsible Decision-Making – The ability to make constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions based on ethical standards, safety concerns, and social norms. It also includes realistic evaluation of consequences of various actions and a consideration of the well being of  our selves and others. Here are a recommendations to encourage responsible decision-making:

  • Allow your child to make choices early on
  • Teach how different rules apply in different contexts (quiet voice in library, cheering at soccer game)
  • Point out decisions made by book characters and discuss
  • Verbally walk through your own decision-making process as a model
  • Teach how to make amends (if you break someone’s toy, you apologize, offer to fix it )
  • Reinforce independent and safe decisions your child makes
  • Discuss what it means to be accountable

The bottom line is that, as your child grows, social and emotional skills matter. These skills will impact relationships and success in school, work, and various groups/activities along the way. Some skills need to be taught systematically and explicitly, but the wonderful thing about SEL is that so much can be embedded naturally into our daily interactions with our children and with them watching us. Did we model appropriate behavior with the mail carrier or taxi driver? Do we follow through and hold ourselves accountable? Are we practicing healthy stress and anger management techniques? Do we reflect on the way we interact with others around us? Parenting is not easy, and we’re constantly learning new ways to improve for the sake of our children. Being mindful of SEL in your own life may take some practice but will pay off in the long run. Not just for you, but for your child, too!

If you need help implementing SEL into your family routines and interactions, remember to reach out to Rethink and take advantage of your free teleconsultation services with our clinical team at www.rethinkbenefits.com.
References:
www.casel.org
www.parenttoolkit.com

 

 

Neurodiversity In The Workplace: Exciting Opportunities On The Horizon

The question that pops into nearly all parents’ minds at some point – what will my child’s future look like – yields a wide array of aspirations… and even more questions. Some, clear as day, while others, foggy. And what if you have a child with an intellectual or developmental disability (I/DD)? What will his or her future hold? The good news is, today, it’s not just Mom and Dad who are the advocates helping to carve out meaningful employment for their children. It’s the future employers, too. But a little context first…

We’ve heard the statistics about employment among the I/DD population, and the numbers are staggering. The ARC surveyed families raising children with an I/DD for a 2010 study, and they reported only 15% of their children were employed. These data were similar to many other surveys, including the National Core Indicators (NCI) Data Brief, which highlighted the high underemployment or unemployment rates of people with an I/DD along with what type of housing they resided in (e.g., 33% of those living independently had employment vs 17% living with parents, etc.), whether they liked their jobs (92% of those working in the community said “Yes”), and the type of work they did (30% cleaning/maintenance, 18% retail, etc.). Certainly, we have the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a civil rights law prohibiting discrimination based on disability in all areas of public life, as well as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which specifically enforces that employers not discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities during interviewing, hiring, training, or firing. While these laws and groups are crucial for our employed population, how are we getting more people with I/DD into the work- force in the first place? And how are we supporting their work to facilitate their success?

Enter the word “Neurodiversity.” This is still a fairly new term, and while its definition will continue to evolve, most agree it refers to the concept that we are all wired differently. The tech industries have taken particular interest in this concept. Companies such as Microsoft, SAP, Willis Towers Watson, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), and Ford have all examined their human resources practices to better access and accommodate neurodiverse talent. Microsoft even has their own “Neurodiversity In The High Tech Workforce Conference.” Companies are starting to recognize and celebrate the need for a neurodiverse workforce. And this isn’t just a hunch. Real work has been done to demonstrate the strengths of a subset of this workforce: those with I/DD and learning disabilities. HPE’s program has placed over 30 individuals from within this “neurodiverse subset” in roles testing software at Australia’s Department of Human Services, and this subset was found to be 30% more productive than colleagues without a disability. Israel’s Defense Force has a “Visual Intelligence Division,” which employs many individuals with autism as image analysts and even recruits high school students for strong visual thinking and attention to detail. These are the students that would otherwise receive an exception letter from participating in the Israeli Army due to their disability.

This is encouraging news for parents to hear, so why isn’t every company doing this? And why are people with dis- abilities still so underemployed when we know they have so much to contribute? Many times, it comes down to just getting past the interview. If you aren’t making eye contact, your conversation goes off on a tangent, you focus on the interviewer’s earrings or the picture of their dog on the desk and keep circling back to those topics, for example, this can be confusing to someone who has         never supported an employee with a disability before. They may even assume you’re uninterested or underprepared and, therefore, not an appropriate fit for the job. The result – another “We’re sorry” response, and it’s back to square one. Or let’s say you are hired but are having       difficulty prioritizing tasks and staying focused on your work. You get distracted by people coming and going alongside your desk, the side conversations you overhear are always derailing your concentration, and those fluorescent light bulbs are almost unbearable. Never mind the fact that you can’t keep all those projects organized. You may eventually find yourself getting fired because you missed too many deadlines. Or let’s say you exceed expectations when it comes to your tasks, but when it comes to inter- acting with your colleagues, you find it agonizing. Knowing you must give that presentation in front of even three people looms over you and makes you sweat more than anything in the world. The anticipation of talking to others at that upcoming holiday party makes you nauseated for weeks. And conflict resolution? You don’t know where to begin. Even though you produce superior work, you may find yourself leaving your job because the social expectations are too much to bear.

We know people are facing challenges like these daily all over the world. Where’s the disconnect, and thus, the opportunity for the company? Awareness and training for managers and employees to better support a neurodiverse workforce.

Companies are required to provide reasonable accommodations to their employees with disabilities unless that accommodation would cause the business undue hardship. A Job Accommodation Network (JAN) study found that the majority of accommodations were completely free, or if there was a cost, it averaged only around $500. The benefit? Increased morale and productivity, better retention rates, reducing workers’ compensation and training costs, and increasing diversity throughout the company. With awareness and training, managers and “neurotypical” employees can support their col- leagues who may benefit from even the simplest of tweaks to their job duties. Let’s look at a few examples:

 

Challenges with Communication and Speaking •         Allow a written response instead of verbal

•         Provide advanced notice of topics for practice purposes

•         Allow a colleague to present material on the employee’s behalf

Challenges with Organization and Prioritization •         Assist with a color coding system for files and projects

•         Work with the employee to create daily/weekly To-Do list

•         Assign a mentor to assist the employee

•         Provide a timer to assist with time allocation

Challenges with Social Interactions with Coworkers •         Provide sensitivity training

•         Allow telecommuting if needed

•         Assign a mentor to assist the employee

•         Provide clear expectations of appropriate behavior and examples to explain inappropriate behavior

•         Provide positive reinforcement for appropriate social behavior

Challenges with Sensory Issues •         Allow noise canceling headphones

•         Provide sound absorption panels

•         Provide a sound machine

•         Relocate the employee’s workspace

•         Redesign the employee’s workspace to reduce distractions

At Rethink, our mission is to inspire and empower individ- uals with developmental disabilities and those who sup- port them. In partnering with companies, large and small, to provide training and resources to their employees raising children with an I/DD, it became clear that these companies were invested in the overall wellness of their population. Having to manage a job while simultaneous- ly juggling therapy visits, assessments, IEP meetings, the stress, and all the extra considerations that come with hav- ing a child with a disability are not overlooked. Compa- nies appreciate the unique needs of their employees and, more and more, are providing them in-depth support. An area of introspection among companies now is – are we, the HR managers, supervisors, mentors – equipped, right here in the office, to accommodate neurodiversity? We are providing support to the caregivers, but what about our employees who may be struggling? And what about the valuable employees we may never have the pleasure of working with because we are not providing an acces- sible path to employment? What about that talented em- ployee who just couldn’t meet deadlines that we had to fire? What about the employee who left us last month because he felt uncomfortable with the amount of social interaction we have here? Where do we go from here?

Awareness and training for managers and employees is a viable option to facilitate a successful neurodiverse work- force. Rethink has incorporated the hardships shared by both people with I/DD, as well as employers, to create a meaningful solution:

  • E-Learning – modules to train managers and employees
  • Teleconsultation – calls and videoconference with master’s and doctoral-level board certified behavior analysts (BCBAs) to provide guidance

The E-learning modules focus on improving awareness and job productivity for all employees. The modules are five-to-ten minutes, focus on employee strengths, and are full of easy, practical solutions to implement on the job. Specifically, the trainings promote active participa- tion through guided notes, short review quizzes, and discussion guides. Materials and resources are provided in the form of printables to facilitate implementation of strategies such as checklists and visual supports. There are also follow up activities, which serve as guides for self-reflection, as well as additional reading and research content.

The teleconsultation services focus on personalized supports and troubleshooting for workplace issues. For example, a manager may want to discuss how to implement newly learned ideas around using checklists and color coding to better support an employee who is struggling with task completion and organization. Or an employee has just learned that her colleague is on the autism spectrum, and she wants to talk through ways to be most helpful to him. Teleconsultations allow for a confidential dialogue about usually difficult situations and how to solve them proactively and with care.

We applaud companies for striving to create a more inclusive workplace. Not one that’s just neurodiverse, but one that ensures everyone is successful, accommodation or not. Workplaces that celebrate our differences and believe that a disability shouldn’t exempt you from      meaningful employment. These truly are exciting opportunities on the horizon for our children.

By Angela Nelson, MS, BCBA
Executive Director of Family and
Clinical Services, Rethink

 

Rethink Benefits Supports International Literacy Day!

Rethink is proud to support International Literacy Day today by helping children with special needs communicate better with their caregivers, peers and teachers. The theme this year is ‘Literacy in a Digital World’ and Rethink’s evidenced-based and mobile friendly platform provides caregivers and their children with learning disabilities quick and easy to follow videos, printable materials and personalized guidance.