Autism@Work: A Cousin and Mentor’s Perspective
Article originally authored by Gabrielle Robertson-Cawley, SAP Senior Communications Specialist.
It’s been almost a year since I walked into a conference room in Newtown Square to meet our colleagues who were being on-boarded into the Autism at Work program. Little did I know that this group of amazing individuals would soon become friends and are some of the most eloquent, intelligent and people I have ever met in my life.
I found out about the Autism at Work program last Winter. 2014 was a difficult year. My best friend was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer and I spent long weekends traveling from NSQ to Chicago to be with her. I told her all about the program and with a Master’s degree in industrial clinical psychology, she was interested in SAP’s mission and my desire to get involved. After she passed away, I wanted something positive to focus on and the AAW program became a part of that focus.
In no way do I claim to be an expert on autism, nor do I have a child on the autism spectrum. I have a 9 year old cousin (Owen) who is on the autism spectrum. To him, I am Aunt Gabby. He brings so much joy to our family. He’s loving, very funny, and so smart. He has movies memorized word for word. He can tell you the birthday of everyone in our family and what day of the week it will fall on (last year, this year and the next) but it’s not always easy for his parents or his younger sister who in her own way, has become the big sister. Through Owen, I have learned some of the ins and outs of Autism . For him, things have to be a certain way. Loud noises and too much activity can be very overwhelming for him. He loves action figures and travels with them everywhere. When he comes to our house, my biggest fear is that one of those toys will accidently fall under the couch or get lost (because there is no way he’s leaving without it)! His mom brings food that he likes to our family get togethers. It’s usually mac and cheese but it has to be Kraft mac and cheese (I have a supply in our pantry, just in case).
Jose Velasco, Head of the Autism at Work Program in North America, asked me to help coordinate the Autism at Work mentor group in Newtown Square, I jumped at the chance.
As part of the AAW mentor program at SAP we have monthly lunches and social activities. So far the group in NSQ has participated in a Month of Service event, happy hour, and a dinner/movie night to see the Hobbit. We are kicking off 2015 with a lunch with Jen Morgan and Rick Knowles (the team is really excited) and our next mission is to get some fun team-building activities on the calendar for the rest of the year. Right now plans are in the works for a night at Painting with a Twist.
As part of the Active Global Support organization, I am fortunate to see most of the folks from the AAW program almost every day. Each of them touch me with their kindness, brilliance and wit on a regular basis. I sat down with one of our colleagues to prep for a magazine interview about his participation in the program and received a lesson in world history. I also get many recommendations for great movies and TV shows as well as insight into the latest and greatest gadgets. I look at my new friends (who prior to SAP didn’t necessarily have jobs worthy of their potential) who are now part of the SAP family.
They have come so far in such a short time.
Being a part of this program (and being Owen’s cousin) have changed my life. I have a new perspective on the talent and gifts that everyone can bring to the table. I am proud of our company for seeing the ability in people rather than what is classified as a disability. I am proud of the entire network of people from the leadership team to managers, team buddies and mentors who make the Autism at Work program possible and I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to be part of the mentor program.
Find out more about SAP’s Autism At Work program.
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