Welcome to the Rethink Benefits Blog

1 in 6 kids have a life-long diagnosed developmental disability (like autism or ADD), and their caregivers struggle to balance work and life. As a result, caregivers experience 2.4x higher rates of stress and anxiety, poorer physical health, and 4x the medical expenses.

Rethink Benefits is the first and only global solution providing Fortune 100 companies and public sector, government and non-profit organizations with training and support for employees caring for a loved one with a developmental disability or undiagnosed challenges with learning, behavior or socialization. We offer caregivers 24/7 virtual teleconsultations with expert behavioral clinicians and online evidence-based training and resources they need to teach their loved one skills, address problem behaviors, collaborate with the school and clinicians, and navigate today’s complex environment.

Rethink also recently launched the Neurodiversity Inclusion Center, offering e-learning modules and a clinical support system to train HR and management about the neurodiverse community.


SHRM: Employees with ASD are an ‘Untapped Reservoir of Talent’

SHRM.com  recently published an article by SHRM’S Kathy Gurchiek Associate Editor, Global Issues, OED & Diversity, discussing organizations like HMS, who hire and outsource employees on the spectrum.

Our Mike Civello, Vice President, Employer Services Division stated “There are some really compelling deliverables” to hiring people with ASD, Adults with autism have some fairly amazing gifts,” such as pattern recognition and attention to detail, “that can outpace those who do not have autism.”

 

 

Could Neurodiversity Be The Key To Your Child’s Future Employment?

As a parent, you have endless responsibilities.  More than you could have ever imagined prior to having children.  If you have a child with an intellectual or developmental disability (I/DD), there can be extra, often many extra, responsibilities to manage – therapies, doctor visits, IEP goals, behavior plans, transition plans, accommodations… the list goes on and on.  One item that might be on that list? Helping your child secure a job one day.

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.  This is consistent with several studies from the last decade illustrating the high underemployment or unemployment rates of individuals with I/DD, even despite many having college degrees.  Additionally, if an individual was headed toward employment, the parents were usually tasked with facilitating this.  The good news is, today, it’s not just Moms and Dads who are the advocates helping to carve out meaningful employment for their children.  It’s the future employers, too.

What’s contributing to this exciting development?  “Neurodiversity.”  Neurodiversity is still a new term, but 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 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 shift is exciting for parents and opens a new world of possibilities.  What makes these changes possible?  Awareness and training for managers and employees to better support a neurodiverse workforce.  And what does that look like?

Suppose your child struggles with making eye contact, goes off on conversational tangents, and is not able to focus on questions during an interview.  Getting past that first phase may be quite challenging.  Perhaps your child does get a job, but due to his difficulty with organization, prioritization, and attention, his inability to meet deadlines results in losing that job.  Or, say your child excels at work tasks

but finds socializing with her colleagues agonizing, and every interaction is awkward for all parties involved.  She ends up leaving her job because it’s just too uncomfortable.  These scenarios happen every day at workplaces across the country.

Equipping companies with training and tools to better support neurodiversity across their population can be a major advancement for our children’s futures.  Resources such as consultations with employment specialists or behavioral experts who support people with disabilities, paired with e-training on disabilities and workplace accommodations are efficient ways for companies to get started.  Companies can learn how to seamlessly incorporate these accommodations, such as helping an employee make a daily to-do list or color-code his projects by priority, allowing presentations to be made via webinar instead of in-person, permitting noise canceling headphones to be worn, or assigning a mentor.  These accommodations are usually free or low-cost solutions, and with small tweaks to the usual practices, companies can open themselves up to support a much more neurodiverse workforce, thus providing a win-win for everyone.  More talent to benefit the company, and more openings for our children!

The opportunities for individuals with disabilities are greater than ever before.  Could acknowledging and embracing neurodiversity be the key to our children’s future?  For now, it’s giving the I/DD population a platform to show the world that they are ready to contribute in a big way.

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

 

Lowe’s Parent: How one parent is overcoming challenges with home and school life.

We started using the Rethink program in 2016 because we were really struggling with both home and school life. One of our biggest challenges was keeping Christopher organized and getting him to finish tasks. Rethink has played an important role in helping us better understand how to help Christopher with specific challenges, and he is making noticeable progress.

I think every parent with a special needs child struggles to balance work and home life, and sometimes you just need to feel that there is help and support and that someone really cares about your child.

Rethink is a great resource for every parent with a special needs child. I’m so glad Lowe’s provides this benefit it lets me know that they care about special needs children.

Christopher has always been creative and independent, but the Rethink program is helping him to grow in other ways, and I feel I can finally get the help I need to ensure he reaches his full potential.”

 

 

Supporting Caregivers of Children with Special Needs: Amazon Success Story

A webinar focused on supporting caregivers of children with special needs. With Rachel Schacht from the National Business Group on Health, Dianne King from Amazon, and Mike Civello from Rethink Benefits.

Why did Amazon make the decision to explore caregiver support for children with developmental disabilities?

“Amazon targeted employee focus groups to determine the need and level for support because we felt it was important for us to get direct employee feedback. We heard the challenges that caregivers and parents were  facing  for  caring  for a child with special needs. Beyond the complications with finding a provider,  we were looking for a support model  that was innovative and would drive real change for our growing and diversifying employee population. After a deeper dive, we realized that one in every six children are diagnosed with a developmental disability, and this can include; Autism, Down syndrome or  ADD/ADHD.  This  is a significant population that is largely under-served due to a shortage of quality providers across the country.”

Why did Amazon decide to offer Rethink Benefits population-wide, and how does this fit into Amazon’s culture?

“An innovative approach, scalability and  a cost-effective model are a perfect fit for our Amazonians. Rethink’s evidence- based practices and 24/7 access to Board Certified Behavior Analysts are a natural fit for our population considering that we’re spread across the country, and all of our employees have a vast array of needs and challenges. Employees caring for a child with a developmental disability need support—and we heard that loud and clear—they need someone who is an expert in the field to talk to, sometimes just to feel validated that they are on the right path. Prior to implementing Rethink, the only option for many employees was to search the web, and parents would be presented with articles and stories that had conflicting and sometimes inaccurate information. What we like about Rethink is that it provides clear  and practical answers, combined  with  an easy-to-follow e-learning program that helps parents in their role supporting their child’s development. I’ve heard from parents so many times that just Googling ‘autism’ as an example you’ll get 23 million hits, and you’ll read so many alarming things that simply aren’t true. I think parents just don’t know where to go. We’ll read things like, “it’s the groundwater,” “it’s something I did wrong during pregnancy,” “it’s vaccinations,” and many other things. Parents really should be looking for a trusted resource and getting the answers they need. It’s life-changing for our population, and Amazon is going to be expanding the Rethink services to our international population later this year.”

How did you successfully implement Rethink?

“Rethink sits outside of the health plan, and all employees have access to this benefit, so even if we have employees who are not enrolled in our traditional medical or other health and  welfare  programs, all employees can utilize Rethink. In addition to our employees, extended family members can join and leverage the resources at any time throughout  the year. We decided to launch outside  of open enrollment during April’s global and national Autism Awareness Month, which is a great time because parents have heightened awareness about breakthroughs and treatment, and we really wanted to highlight new services. We had over 500 employees sign up for the introductory webinar. We’ve received many notes of appreciation, which have been great to see over the past several years. We partner with Rethink on vendor summits, and we’ve also held follow up employee focus groups and collaborative sessions with the health plans to find cross referral opportunities and so much more.”

How do you evaluate ROI?

“The way that Amazon views the ROI for Rethink is simple: it changes lives,  and we have seen countless stories from employees who shared that Rethink has given them the tools and confidence to drive their child’s development and achieve and reach goals that they previously did not think were possible. For us, that is an integral part of the of the program.”

How do you respond to statements such as, “This is not a big problem with our population of employees.”?

“Disclosure is a big issue. For every one or two key circumstances that you know about or are self-disclosed, there are probably ten more that suffer in silence. Employees don’t want to be judged for having a child with a disability. They don’t want their supervisor to assume that they’re going to be a problem, or have scheduling conflicts. It’s one of those quiet impactors of productivity and workplace engagement. It’s not just about benefits coverage and connecting a parent to a provider for direct patient care for the child. It’s unfortunately not a one-and- done scenario. It’s not like typical disease management—it’s really a large issue that impacts every aspect of a caregiver’s life.

 

User Highlights

“Rethink provided us with additional resources and materials along with webinars and conference calls regarding our son’s speech delay issues and how to improve his condition. He has shown amazing growth, and his speech has also improved. Cognizant providing us with programs like Rethink clearly indicates how focused it is on its employees’ overall development on the personal front, as well.

-Abhishek J.  Cognizant Parent, Rethink User

“My child is non-verbal. Family members didn’t know how approach him or how to talk to him because he would get very upset and scream. Rethink had materials and lessons that I showed them and had them implement. They are now able to talk to him and touch him without him screaming. It has help tremendously in my life and my child’s. I have told other employees about this program to better educate people who may not understand autism. I have also shared this with other employees who have children with autism. If my employer didn’t offer this, I would have been lost, upset and stressed out.

Amber T.  Charter Communications Parent, Rethink User

“Before using Rethink, my son’s challenges included maintaining attention during our homework sessions. As a parent, this is frustrating as we are not in the classroom environment, but with Rethink parent resources, I was able to cater to his interests and keep his attention. The resources are endless. Not everyone has a teaching degree, and even if we did some, children need different aids to learn. Rethink makes it easy to follow different forms of teaching according to your child’s responses. It’s an amazing resource. It should be advertised as part of the perks and benefits in the company.

 Bethshaimarie T. The Home Depot Parent, Rethink User

 

“At the beginning, we knew so little about everything, but after the first consultation session, I was hooked. We are learning so much from our great coach, Kim Smalley. Now the teachers and therapists often compliment us about our autism knowledge that we learned from Kim. Rethink lessened so much pressure at home and made me concentrate more on my job. It is one of the great benefits that keep me staying with my employer.

Jian FIntuit Parent, Rethink User

“My son is very friendly, and he loves to learn. He has a hard time adjusting to new environments. It makes it hard for him to focus. I’ve had numerous child care workers express that he has a learning disability. I’ve used Rethink for tips on helping him to focus, in addition to the children’s activities. It helped me feel more useful as a first-time parent of a school age child. I was struggling to help my son adjust to a new school environment. I felt like I was failing him as a parent. Rethink empowered me with a new approach to my son’s issue. As a parent, it’s helpful to have the resources to help make the best decisions for our children. All employers should offer this program.

Bridget M. The Home Depot Parent, Rethink User

 “I was very interested in extra resources to help guide us with some behavior issues. It makes me very appreciative that my employer values this resource and recognizes this as something families really need.

Christine K.  Nordstrom Parent, Rethink User

“Our child is a twice exceptional child. He has learning disabilities but is gifted. He falls through the cracks in a public school setting, even with parent advocacy. We were given some great tools to implement in helping with anxiety and social situations. This program was so helpful to us just in validation that we knew our child best, what was right for him, and that we weren’t wrong in thinking our child needed some help not only educationally, but emotionally. It was a relief to talk to someone who understood our struggles and had a plethora of suggestions of things to try that were actually helpful. We have met so many families through social media looking for answers. If this type of service was offered to them, parents who suspect an issue would be able to get help and use interventions much earlier. By offering this program, Comcast has shown that the company values the well-being of the families of its employees and supports them.

James H.  Comcast Parent, Rethink User

 

 

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.

 

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

 

Are you prepared to hire Neurodiverse people?

Companies are starting to take a closer look at their diversity and inclusion hiring efforts and promotion.  But are they including neurodiversity in their efforts?

Marketing Week@MarketingWeekEd