Strathmore University- @iLabAfrica, in partnership with Autistech Ltd are offering a program known as Project Autistech. This project seeks to make a significant contribution towards solving the problem of access to meaningful employment opportunities for individuals on the Autism spectrum.
Autistech seeks to create an environment whereby certain individuals on the Autism Spectrum can be employed on the basis of their areas of strength. Software Testing & Quality assurance is one such area where people with Autism have been known to excel and this has been proven severally elsewhere in the World save for Africa. The project will seek to validate the possibility of replicating these successful models within the Kenyan context by recruiting a total of 15 individuals, providing them with on-job autism support and assessing their performance. Should the pilot phase be successful then the model with be scaled up to become an enterprise that provides long-term and meaningful employment to individuals on the Autism spectrum while offering the IT market quality software testing services.
Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that manifests itself during the first three years of life. It results from a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain, mostly affecting children and adults in many countries irrespective of gender, race or socio-economic status. It is characterized by impairments in social interaction, problems with verbal and non-verbal communication and restricted, repetitive behavior, interests and activities. The rate of autism in all regions of the world is high and it has a tremendous impact on children, their families, communities and societies.
At the moment, no conclusive explanation of causes is available, neither is there a proven medical cure. Autism affects an estimated 70 million people and is the fastest growing serious developmental disability in the world, with a startling growth rate of around 57% since 2002. Each year more children are diagnosed with an autism spectrum condition than they are with AIDS, diabetes, and cancer combined.
The main social consequence of autism is lack of inclusion, a human rights issue. It is estimated that more than 80% of diagnosed adults with autism are unemployed. Research suggests that employers are missing out on abilities that people on the autism spectrum have in greater abundance than neuro-typical workers do – such as, heightened abilities in pattern recognition and logical reasoning, as well as a greater attention to detail. However, there are hurdles to be overcome in order to gainfully employ these talented individuals e.g. a shortage of vocational training, inadequate support with job placement, and pervasive discrimination.
The idea to do the pilot project was conceived by Innocent Wafula, a father of a 7-year old autistic boy and seasoned IT expert. The inspiration from the project partly came from his son, David, who by the age of 3 demonstrated exceptional aptitude for computers and mobile devices. It is only 2 years later that he was diagnosed with autism. This was a perplexing situation for Innocent and his family-on the one hand their son was now classified as mentally ill but his gifts had served to obscure this diagnosis for a considerable amount of time. This led Innocent to research about Autism and in the process he found out that in all the other continents, except Africa, people with Autism have been gainfully employed especially in IT. German software giant, SAP for example has hired many people with autism and targets to reach a goal of 700 employees by 2020.
For more information on this project kindly read here.