Yesterday my son Jules, who’s autistic, opened the London stock exchange. (Now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write!) He was joining forces with an organisation called Purple @wearepurpleorg who are trying to change the conversation around neurodiversity and highlight the disability employment gap.
The Stock Exchange is not my natural habitat. I know nothing about money. I find banking jargon mind-bogglingly obfuscatory. ‘Stagflation’ for example. What on earth is that? Stalking antlered beasts at Balmoral?… And ‘fiscal rectitude’? Surely that can only lead to hemorrhoids. ISAS , TESSAS , PEPS …they all sound like infectious diseases for which you should take an immediate course of antibiotics. Nor can I understand why the tax man is always nagging me while giant corporations like Google, Starbucks and Apple often pay no corporation tax? That’s an equation not even Einstein could fathom.
But Jules took it in his sneakered stride. Here is the little speech he made to the bankers, plus a small video of him opening the day’s trading here. I feel a bit like the interfering, pushy mother in the Gypsy musical, posting this, but I think it might help businesses to open their hearts and their minds to hiring people who are different. Cheers for now, Kathy
THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX by Jules Robertson.
Thank you for inviting me: it’s an honour to be here at the opening of this great stock exchange. I am sure that it will go up rather than down.
I’m an actor in the BBC medical drama called Holby City. What makes me different from other actors is that I’m autistic. Life can be hard for autistic people – we want to work, we need to work, but its really hard to get a job despite the fact that our brains are unique – Einstein, Mozart, Warhol, Steve Jobs – were all on the autistic spectrum – most of us have to live on benefits, in bedsits. Less than 15% of autistic people are in the work force, which is a much lower rate than for other disabilities.
The BBC took a bold step in casting me in Holby – it was the first time that an autistic actor player an autistic character. In the old days, when movies depicted the Rain Man, he was played by Dustin Hoffman. Today, he would be played by an autistic actor. That is an example of how my business, show business, is progressing. With Holby, the BBC took a risk, and it paid off. Could you take the same risk?
Autistic people have amazing talents. Some are very good with figures – like the Rain Man. They have very high IQ’s. They could add value to your business, and a job would help them value themselves. I can’t tell you how liberating it is to be finally earning a wage. Until recently my current account reminded me of all the girls I try to chat up – not showing the slightest interest. So it’s absolutely great to finally be able to tell my money where to go… instead of wondering where it went.
Purple have asked me here today to help you too to think outside the box and hire people who think differently, and who think laterally. So be brave, take a gamble by employing us. You won’t regret it.
In truth there is no such thing as normal and abnormal, just ordinary and extraordinary. And I think you’ll find that autistic people do have the most extraordinary minds. Why don’t you find out?