18/10/2017 06:05 BST | Updated 18/10/2017 06:09 BST

Thinking Outside The Neurotypical Box

Doug Peters/EMPICS Entertainment


My son Jules is on the autistic spectrum. He is now 26 and working as an actor on the BBC's medical drama, Holby City. It's the first time an autistic actor has been cast to play an autistic character and it's been a huge success with audiences. After years of bullying at school and endless rejections, Jules' self esteem was limbo low, but now he's proud of his condition and wants to teach others about the positive aspects of autism.

What my son has taught me is that there is no such thing as normal and abnormal, just ordinary and extraordinary - and people on the spectrum have a lateral, literal, tangential logic which is truly original and fascinating. My own son is Wikipedia with a pulse. We now know, with diagnostic hindsight, that Mozart, Orwell, Van Gough, Warhol, Steve Jobs and many other brilliant artists and scientists were on the autistic spectrum. If only employers could learn to think outside the neurotypical box, then autistic people could give back to society in the most amazing ways. And yet, sadly, only 15% of people with autism are in the workforce, which is a much lower inclusion rate than other disabilities.

Raising a child with autism gives a parent the same ride a bucking bronco gives a cowgirl - minus the hardhat. But it was job-hunting which proved the greatest laxative known to parental kind. When my son was trying to find work, potential employers often made him feel as though he should get his DNA steam-cleaned. Some were condescending - speaking loudly and slowly as though my boy had just beamed down from Planet Weird. Others were simply cruel. A fast food manager enquired if he had the mental capacity to empty garbage - a task so simple it could be learnt by an advanced hamster.

The endless knockbacks meant I soon needed a microscope to locate my kid's confidence. Why did every potential boss seem to have Loveable-Genius filters on their glasses?

By playing Jason what Jules hopes people will realise is that a label is nothing more than a piece of paper on the side of a jam jar.

My only advice for parents of autistic children - feed their passions as you never know where it will lead. And to employers? Take a risk and think outside the neurotypical box. Autism is called a spectrum because that's exactly what autistic people add - colour.

Kathy Lette's novel about an autistic boy's dating escapades is called Best Laid Plans. Her novel about raising an autistic child is called The Boy Who Fell To Earth.

HuffPost UK has teamed up with television presenter, broadcaster and author June Sarpong, ahead of the launch of her book Diversify: Six degrees of integration, to highlight and champion the economic, social and moral benefits of diversity.

Throughout this week we will be hosting personal stories and opinions from June, as well as the inspirational and influential people who helped inform the book and project. To find out more visit Diversify.org.