A former nuclear marine engineer is calling for businesses to do more to support and encourage employees with Autism.
Andrew Warneken, from Warneken Consulting, based in Melbourne, South Derbyshire, was diagnosed with high functioning Aspergers at the age of 47.
A former Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy for nearly 15 years Andrew was initially trained as a submarine officer specialising in navigation and warfare. He then re-trained as a submarine nuclear marine engineering officer and was in charge of teams of highly qualified and intelligent officers and technicians on a variety of submarine missions across the globe. Leaving the Royal Navy at 32 he now wants to use his experience managing teams within the military to help coach managers to drive efficiencies and break down barriers for people in work.
“People with autism naturally have a high IQ,” says Andrew. “They are dedicated, focused and driven so if employers don’t consider their recruitment processes or understand their employees they could unwittingly be excluding individuals that would excel in that role.”
The qualified chief engineer, who himself struggled with indirect communication, understanding finer subtleties and specific turns of phrase while working, is offering businesses the opportunity to find out more about how they can make sure they are clear in their approach with all employees.
He said: “Most of the time it simply comes down to being clearer in your communication. I never understood why people would say, “could you get that file back by 5pm?” you have only said when you wanted the file back by and not when the work needed to be completed by. That is often where the problem lies as people often communicate using inference rather than precision and fact. With people with autism struggling to pick up non-verbal communications as well it can be very confusing.
“I have often heard that there are businesses where individuals are going through the disciplinary process with individuals seen as not “performing” or “conforming” to established practices by missing deadlines or refusing to cooperate when really all it is, is a breakdown in communication. The business is not able to communicate with the individuals in an effective manner.
“It is my aim to “demystify” and breakdown these difficulties and as such help businesses take full advantages of the unique talents and the (very) high IQ that many people living with autism often possess.”
According to the National Autistic Society (NAS) about one in 100 people are on the autistic spectrum, which is an estimated 700,000 people in the UK. It also estimates that only 16% of these are in full-time paid employment. While NAS research found that more than three-quarters (77%) who are unemployed say they want to work.
Following this research, the Government committed in July last year to make an official record of the number of autistic people in work for the first time.
For Andrew, who now supports the Derby based charity Sunshine Support which helps children living with autism, it wasn’t until his doctor raised the possibility he could be showing traits of autism that he was diagnosed.
The diagnosis went on to explain his fascination with facts, precision and structure.
Growing up the father-of-two, whose teenage son Edward has now also been diagnosed, had always been very studious taking O-level maths a year early and flourishing in environments with order and discipline.
It was one of the many reasons the military lifestyle appealed, and he received a cadetship into the Royal Navy as a Warfare Officer. A few years later in preparation for the Admiralty Interview Board selection process Andrew was able to memorise every aspect of each warship’s engine configuration, statistics as well as its weapon capabilities.
However, despite his success he always felt he didn’t quite see things the same as others did and would often focus on his problem solving as a form of escape.
Going forward he hopes his story can help others understand how they can make sure that they are supporting their staff and the simple measures that can be used to make a big difference.
National Autism Awareness Month is in April and is designed to increase global understanding and acceptance of people with autism. From 30th March to 5th April people are encouraged to raise funds as part of silly sock day where people face the challenge of wearing their silliest or craziest socks to school, work, college or even around the home to raise vital funds for charity.
More information on Andrew and the support he offers businesses is available at www.warnekenconsulting.org or you can contact Andrew direct on firstname.lastname@example.org
"My aim is to demystify and breakdown difficulties and as such help businesses take full advantages of the unique talents people living with autism possess."
Andrew Warneken of Warneken Consulting