Symposium Autism and Talent

Fontys Information and Communication Technology

Symposium Autism and Talent, talents of autistic people underestimated

Wednesday 14 October 2015 the symposium Autism & Talent was being organised by Stichting Autisme Research in the Evoluon in Eindhoven. This was part of the Knowledge festival "Learning in Brainport". Marlou Heskes, autism specialist and coordinator of talent oriented education & student+ of Fontys Hogeschool ICT, was one of the initiators and she looks back with a feeling of pride: "We had not expected such a great number of visitors, fantastic!".

Symposium: fund raising and recognition

Next to fundraising for scientific research, the symposium was aimed at generating attention for the recognition of the talents of people with autism. In a packed Philipszaal in the Evoluon, 400 visitors listened to Prof. Simon Baron Cohen of Autism Research Centre Cambridge University, Merel van Vroonhoven, chairwoman of AFM and work group 'from an autistic point of view' and others. There were also a few people with autism who talked about their own experiences on the work floor.

Silicon Valley Syndrome

Brainport could consider itself the most intelligent region in the world for a year. Just like other intelligent regions, Brainport also suffers from the 'Silicon Valley Syndrome': an elevated percentage of children in the autistic spectrum. Research by Simon Baron Cohen shows that in this region, autistic spectrum disorders are four times more prevalent than in the Utrecht region. "Even though many already suspected it, it still had an enormous impact at the time", according to the Eindhovens Dagblad. To excel in technology, a spark of autism seems indispensable. Still, 70 percent of the Higher Vocational Education students with autism do not get a job after graduation.

Simon Baron Cohen wants to put her shoulders to the wheel

Hardly any research has been done into the relationship between technology and autism, even though there are significant opportunities for talented people with autism. Baron Cohen wants to make a stand and do research on the relationship between the people with a technical background and autism. Research is expensive though. Very expensive. The corporate world is not very keen on investing in scientific research into autism. The Brainport-regio including ASML, Philips and VDL nevertheless are crying out for talent: technical professionals with an eye for detail.

Attention for autism and talent on Fontys Hogeschool ICT

Ad Vissers, director of Fontys Hogeschool ICT, was also present at the symposium. "We like to educate a lot of people, with a lot of different talents, from creative talents to skilled team players. Certainly also with attention for autism and talent," says Ad Vissers. Vissers also mentioned that the gap between graduation from Higher Vocational Education and getting a job is often large for students with autism. "We don't sufficiently acknowledge the talents of these students yet."

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