Three ways social impact organizations can better communicate with autistic people

Four organizations that work with autistic communities explain how to hold virtual meetings that include everyone

Why It Matters

Canada is home to as many as 670,000 autistic people, many of whom find group settings overwhelming. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, many social good organizations are hosting meetings with coworkers and clients over video conferencing apps, but haven’t thought about how to include autistic people.

After months of physical distancing, many Canadians are looking back at packed office meetings through a nostalgic lens. Not Anne Borden.

The co-founder of Autistics 4 Autistics, an Ontario self-advocacy group, once worked at a law firm. She doesn’t remember it fondly. The constant background noise, her colleagues’ shuffling and shoulder taps, and the many distractions of a crowded workspace were simply too much for her. “The open-concept office is really like a living nightmare,” she says. “Maybe there’s a few autistic people out there who like that, but I’ve never met them.”

About 1 to 2 percent of Canada’s population, or anywhere between 380,000 to 760,000 people, are autistic, according to estimates from the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Their behaviours can vary quite widely, but can include avoiding eye contact, struggling to understand e

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