Employ us!

Sarah Cleaver reviews the first part of 'Employable Me', from the BBC.

It's 9:41 pm and I'm sitting here weeping over a telly programme, my heart full of compassion for Brett, who has just been offered a work trial. Finally, an employer has seen past Brett’s communication difficulties and is prepared to give him a chance to use his skills. My joy knows no limits, and that's what the programme makers were no doubt after: to raise awareness and engage our emotions.

By following two individuals, we come to understand more about their struggles with autistic thinking, and Tourette’s Syndrome, and there are examples of strengths given too.  Personally, I would have liked more explanation about the conditions, and both the struggles and the talents; perhaps these will be covered in later episodes. As a nation, it seems we don't understand neuro-diversity very well. Wouldn't it be great if this stuff could be taught in schools? (I know, that applies to Psychology generally, doesn't it? C’mon, let's start a revolution…) Also, job interviews: poor validity, and so often an unnecessary barrier. Discuss.

On hand as ‘informed advocates’ were psychologists Professor Simon Baron-Cohen and Nancy Doyle, to explain to employers what the individual is capable of and what their challenges are. The programme gave the impression that neither protagonist had received much help with their employment struggles; they had each had a diagnosis, and there the support appeared to have ended. As Psychologists, it's clear to me that there is a massive amount of work we could usefully be doing, contributing not only to the better working of society (by better use of our peoples’ skills) but helping individuals to feel more accepted. (Brett’s employer, after the two week work trial, described him as a ‘considered, delicate, bucketful of intelligence,’ and while I'm sure that Brett is much more than that, isn't that a lovely phrase?)

And yet, the need is still there. We could be helping both individuals and society. But we are not being asked to. Why is that? And what can be done about it?

P.S. The two specialists featured, Simon Baron-Cohen and Nancy Doyle, both did a great job as ambassadors for Psychology. But am I the only one who noticed that Simon Baron-Cohen is always referred to in the voiceover using his full name, whereas there was a reference to ‘Occupational Psychologist Nancy’? Please, BBC, tell me you are not being sexist!

- Watch now on BBC iPlayer

- Sarah Cleaver is a Chartered Occupational Psychologist; along with Nancy Doyle, who featured in the programme, she co-convenes the Division of Occupational Psychology’s Working Group on Neurodiversity and Employment. Contact Sarah on [email protected] . The Working Group is hosting a two-day Learning a Living workshop in September on assessments for neuro-diverse adults; please contact [email protected] for details.

BPS Members can discuss this article

Already a member? Or Create an account

Not a member? Find out about becoming a member or subscriber