Updated 18 April 2016

Changing perceptions around autism

Autism is not a disability it’s merely a “different operating system”.


For years, autism has been treated with intensive one on one therapy. Autistic adults are speaking out and advocating a change in perception and acceptance! One out of every 45 individuals has an autism diagnosis! This statistic has increased from 1970, when a mere 1 out of every 10 000 people were diagnosed.

We need to adapt and learn from people on the autism spectrum! Karla Pretorius and Nanette Botha have taken heed and changed the way autism is viewed in society. Their view is that autistic people can be fully integrated into society and lead independent lives, when provided with the right support.

This includes some environmental adaptations, a holistic educational approach as well as increasing appropriate coping skills.

Read: Autism finds space in the workplace

The autism revolution that Pretorius and Botha started began by thinking about autism as a different ability, rather than a disability. This mind-shift came when Pretorius and Botha collaborated with autistic adults to learn from them. “We were blown away by the response – we learnt more from autistic adults than decades of studying psychology and the education.

They all possess treasures and pearls of wisdom that they will share with those who accept, believe and support them”. According to Botha, they see the world differently than typical individuals. Pretorius adds that “typical is not always correct – it’s merely more often”.

Pretorius says, “every autistic person I have had the privilege to get to know wants to lead an independent life, by being accepted into society and contributing towards the bigger cause”. Pretorius and Botha started a company – Start Up – that works with autistic individuals in finding and maintaining high-end employment.

According to Botha “these individuals are highly intelligent and dedicated; they are excellent employees”. 

Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) is a form of autism characterized by normal to superior IQ, accompanied by social and communication difficulties. These difficulties stem from neurologically based sensory and information-processing differences. 

Even though individuals diagnosed with AS might look just like everybody else, their mind works in a significantly different way, and
sometimes their behaviour and reactions will not be typical.

Read: New strategy to help autistic jobseekers

Recent research from Harvard Business School and others showed that the strengths of people with Asperger’s and high-functioning autism actually make them superior at career paths; such as IT related fields and/or creative arts.

Their ability to focus, good memory, their high intelligence, their strong technical skills, their ability to detect details and also to stay focused over lengthy periods are all beneficial qualities to them as well as employers. 

Start Up offers social skills, transitioning and workforce etiquette and adaptation training to individuals diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. We offer a 4 months short course that equips these individuals to successfully find and maintain high-end employment that suits their needs.

The Professional Preparation Course (PPC) is offered twice a year, with the next one starting in August. Successful candidates get placed in prestigious corporate environments with a great future!

Start Up also offers training to companies and institutions, employees and employers – free of charge. These training sessions include (but are not limited to): “what is autism?”, “benefits of being a “disability-friendly” organisation/institution”, “adaptations to the work environment” and"successful interaction in the workforce.” 

Read more: 

Young adults with autism lag in school, work 

Detecting autism from brain activity  

Autistic kids have extra brain connections