Haley Moss became the first openly autistic person to pass the Florida Bar in July 2018, but she hopes for a time when this isn’t unusual.
Not that she minds being different. She embraces it, kind of like being Harry Potter in a world full of muggles, a comparison her mother offered to help her understand her differences as a child.
But Moss looks forward to a time when autistic people who are successful at their jobs are not considered unique. She discussed the need for more employers to hire autistic men and women during a virtual speech organized by the St. Petersburg College Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions on World Autism Awareness Day. The University of Florida graduate attended the University of Miami for law school, then worked as a lawyer focusing on healthcare and antiterrorism litigation. Now she’s a professional speaker, educating audiences about Autism and other neurodiverse diagnosis such as, Tourette syndrome, ADHD, dyslexia, and other intellectual disabilities. Moss was diagnosed with Autism when she was 3, asked to leave preschool a few years later, but went on to eventually get a law degree.
“I didn’t overcome autism, I overcame things that are hard for me and stereotypes and stigmas that are associated with autism,” she said. “Society’s attitude and the environment around us can be more disabling than any diagnosis can be.”
Public speaking is one of Moss’s strengths, because she prefers speaking to a crowd instead of navigating a conversation with three or four people. Other strengths that many autistic people possess that make them good employees include:
- Attention to detail
- Ability to deeply focus
- Strong observation skills
- Accepting of others
- Strong retention of facts
- Strong analytical skills
Yet, this doesn’t translate into enough hiring of people with autism and other disabilities, based on these facts Moss presented:
- 85% of autistic college graduates are unemployed.
- Autistic people have the lowest employment rate among all disabled people.
- Lawyers with disabilities make up just .55% of the profession.
- Only 34.6% of women with disabilities are employed.
Moss is on a mission to change these numbers– one speech, one person, one new hire at a time.