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
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.
“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.