Autism and Alpacas

Greetings Earthlings! 😀

This week I’d like to talk about something a little more floofy- alpacas! 😀

Last week I went on an alpaca walk at a nearby alpaca farm and it got me thinking about the therapeutic benefits of alpacas for people with autism. But first things first, here’s a few facts about alpacas:

  • Alpacas are members of the camelid family (llamas, camels, vicuñas, and guanacos) native to South America
  • There are two kinds of alpacas, the suri and the huacaya. The huacaya (in the pictures above) have fluffy coats where as suri alpacas have long wavy hair that kind of looks like dreadlocks
  • Often confused with it’s taller relative the llama, alpacas and llamas can crossbreed to make ‘huarizo’
  • Their fleece is hypoallergenic (it makes lovely wool) and really soft- which makes it quite pleasurable for the sensory sensitive
  • They communicate by humming and have only one set of prominent bottom teeth for eating vegetation- it’s just gums along the top😂

So how can alpacas benefit autists?

Many studies have shown that animal therapies can be quite beneficial for people with autism and ADHD where being around and stroking animals releases endorphins, decreases stress and anxiety, and lowers blood pressure. Case in point- last week during a hospital visit my blood pressure was a little bit high from the stress of being there, but after the nurses got me thinking and talking about alpacas, my pressure dropped to normal!😂

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Alpacas are particularly suitable as therapy animals due to their gentle, friendly and fluffy nature. In recent years with the rise in alpaca breeding and popularity, the Cognitive Alpaca Learning Methods (CALMs) has been developed to harness the calming nature of alpacas to work with children and adults on the spectrum. As alpacas are sensitive creatures that react to fear and aggression, CALMs students are taught to put their emotions in check whilst learning how to handle and take responsibility for the alpacas. After a few sessions students tend to absorb the alpacas calming aura which has led to improvements in behaviour and demeanor, even reduced numbers of meltdowns- some autists undergoing this program have gone from having 5-10 a day to 1-2 a week! đŸ˜± Moreover, alpacas can act as “social lubricants” wherein they provide autists with a source of conversation which can encourage better engagement.

You can find out more about alpacas and their therapeutic uses in these links:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/b078wl24

https://www.pukkapacas.com/calms-therapy

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Hope you enjoyed this post dear Earthlings! 😀

Have a lovely weekend!

Aoife

Inclusive Hiring Programs

Greetings Earthlings! 🙂

Leading on from my previous posts about autism and the workplace, I’d like to briefly talk about the latest trend of inclusive hiring programs for people with autism.

As previously discussed, between 75 and 85% of people with autism cannot find/maintain employment, despite many being highly educated.

It’s not that an autist can’t do the job, there just may be some difficulties with the social /sensory aspects of the workplace (not to mention struggles with interviews) which sadly, many employers do not care to accommodate.

Thankfully, times are changing, and many companies have realized the value of and are beginning to tap into the autistic skill set. Roughly 50 companies in the United States now have a workforce comprising mainly autists! :O

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One company in particular which has been making headlines is Microsoft’s ‘Autsim Hiring Program’.

In the last couple of years, Microsoft have devised this program “to attract talent and build an inclusive approach to support individuals on the autism spectrum that will contribute to the way [they] work as a company in building and servicing [their] products.” Microsoft view autists as an “untapped pool of talent” and are evolving their hiring approach to improve diversity within the company.

What’s particularly interesting about this program is the unique interview process. Instead of the usual sink or swim interviews that we are accustomed to, Microsoft have developed what they consider to be an interview “academy” of sorts. This academy combines the traditional interview with a workshop which will allow a potential hire to show them what they’re made of and to fully demonstrate how they can be an asset to the company.

You can check out more about the program in the link below:

What I really like about the company is their attitude to the future in that they would hope that this will one day not just be a program, but will be the natural way that companies hire and recruit new talent. So much rides on a face face to face interview, even more so for autists. One slip of the tongue can make or break you, but having a skill based element to candidate screening could make such a difference to an autists career. bitmoji-20181205103427

Hope you enjoyed this post dear Earthlings, and that your Christmas preparations are coming along nicely 😀

Have a great weekend! 🙂

Aoife

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