The spe­cial seven

For over a decade, an or­gan­i­sa­tion has been demon­strat­ing how those with Autism Spec­trum Dis­or­der can be in­te­grated into a reg­u­lar work­force

The Hindu - - OPPORTUNITIES - Liffy Thomas

With an air of un­usual in­ten­sity, Sush­mita Dan­a­balan de­vours the con­tents of a news­pa­per. She is at the li­brary of Bengaluru-based Sasken Tech­nolo­gies which brought her on board in 2005 as its li­brar­ian. As three visi­tors walk in, she ac­knowl­edges their pres­ence. She how­ever en­gages them only for a fleet­ing mo­ment, turn­ing her back on them abruptly. Hav­ing re­turned to her chair, she jabs at the key­board fu­ri­ously, peer­ing in­tently into the mon­i­tor.

At Sasken Tech­nolo­gies, Sush­mita is one of seven re­cruits with Autism Spec­trum Dis­or­der. All the neu­rotyp­i­cal col­leagues of Sush­mita are aware of her con­di­tion and are sup­port­ive, says Swami Kr­ish­nan, vice-pres­i­dent - em­ployee en­gage­ment and de­vel­op­ment, Cor­po­rate Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Sasken Tech­nolo­gies.

“We make ev­ery em­ployee a part of our di­ver­sity pro­gramme. Ev­ery six months, em­ploy­ees are sen­si­tised through sem­i­nars and work­shops about the need to cre­ate a sup­port­ive work en­vi­ron­ment,” he says.

The Ad­van­tage

“De­vel­op­ing an in­ter­est in a new task takes time for Sush­mita, but once she comes to grips with it, she does it metic­u­lously,” says Su­san Thomas, se­nior man­ager (HR), who Sush­mita re­ports to.

“Ini­tially, for more than three months, Sush­mita’s mother as­sisted her, com­ing to work ev­ery day and train­ing her in her roles,” says Su­san.

Sush­mita’s daily rou­tine in­volves is­su­ing and col­lect­ing books from em­ploy­ees, feed­ing de­tails of books into the sys­tem and plac­ing books in re­spec­tive racks. As long as a task is based on repet­i­tive ac­tions, Sush­mita is ex­tremely com­fort­able and even will­ing to take up ex­tra work.

Sid­darth Narayan, who joined Sasken Tech­nolo­gies in 2007, has worked his way up in the or­gan­i­sa­tion. He started as an as­sis­tant in the ‘mail room’ and is now in­charge of the stationery sec­tion.

He has a knack for re­mem­ber­ing the names and faces of em­ploy­ees. He loves to so­cialise and is a res­i­dent pho­tog­ra­pher at Sasken.

With a smile per­pet­u­ally pasted on his face, Me­shak Wil­liams goes about his daily quota of data en­try work.

Are key re­sult ar­eas for these em­ploy­ees set in stone?

Shailen­dras­ing Patil, as­sis­tant fa­cil­ity man­ager, says there is no for­mal process.

“I get them to do what­ever they like to do,” he says, adding that they are how­ever en­abled to un­der­stand and mod­ify their be­hav­iour.

Some of them can make mis­takes while at­tend­ing to a com­plex task.

Swami Kr­ish­nan says the or­gan­i­sa­tion is ex­plor­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of plac­ing spe­cial needs em­ploy­ees in higher roles.

PHOTO : SUDHAKARA JAIN

At an of­fice of the Bengaluru-based Sasken Tech­nolo­gies.

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