Autism now affects 1 in 59 children and 1 in 37 boys. It is one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the U.S.; almost everyone you talk to knows someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
But did you know that over the next 10 years, 500,000 adults on the autism spectrum will be graduating college and entering adulthood? And that 85% individuals with autism are unemployed or underemployed? With the Autism at Work program, SAP is on a mission to change that statistic. The initiative currently includes nearly 132 colleagues filling over 20 different positions, and is active in 10 countries. And not only that, but SAP is sharing best practices with customers and partners learned through our program. This past weekend, SAP sponsored the Eagles Autism Challenge, which gave us a number of opportunities to do just that.
Last week, SAP and the Philadelphia Eagles hosted the SAP Autism at Work Symposium at Lincoln Financial Field. The program featured speakers from the Philadelphia Eagles, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and SAP, setting the stage for a discussion on autism and neurodiversity, as well as the employment challenges that surround it. It also included a deep dive into the Autism at Work program and supporting technologies, led by José Velasco, head of the Autism at Work program in the U.S. for SAP.
Finally, the event included a panel discussion on workplace opportunities for students with ASD, featuring:
- Jordan Hicks, Middle Linebacker, Philadelphia Eagles
- Liezl Els, Managing Director, Els for Autism Foundation
- David DeNotaris, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation
- Ryan Hammond, Executive Director, Eagles Autism Challenge
- José Velasco, head of the SAP Autism at Work program for the US
- Mike Giongo, Sales Operations Specialist and SAP Autism at Work team member
Feedback from the event has been phenomenal.
“Thank you for a truly inspirational event,” said Angela Shenton, director of Global Procurement IT Software Category at Johnson & Johnson. “I’m so thrilled that we were able to attend and learn more about the program. In particular, the panel discussion was phenomenal and provided a diversity of perspectives, information, and experiences. The impact of SAP’s efforts on folks like Mike and his family is tremendous.”
“We are here and loving it! Lead on, leaders!” noted Michael Murray, director of the Employer Policy Team for the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP).
To round out the weekend, SAP sponsored the main event, the Eagles Autism Challenge.
In his recap of the event, Dave Spadaro, Eagles Insider, wrote: “The participants, 3,300 who registered and braved the elements to ride one of three distances – 50 miles, 30 miles, or 15 miles – or run/walk the Five Below 5k proved to be a hardy and resilient group. They began the weekend on Friday at Lincoln Financial Field picking up their activities packets and eating and drinking at a festive Kick-Off Party in the West Club and ended making good on a commitment to cover some serious mileage for a great cause.”
The Philadelphia Eagles have raised $2.3 million so far for beneficiaries supporting autism research, including the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Drexel University, Thomas Jefferson University, and Jefferson Health.
Team SAP — comprised of SAP employees, friends, and family — raised approximately $15,000 for the cause, which kicked off at an employee rally with Swoop at the SAP office in Newtown Square on April 13. And of course, SAP was onsite at the Eagles Autism Challenge finish line party, along with the Arc of Philadelphia, providing literature, conversation, and gifts to the attendees.
If you’re wishing you could have participated, it’s not too late to donate to the cause by the May 31 deadline! You can also join the conversation online using the hashtags #EaglesAutismChallenge and #TheBestRun.
To learn more about SAP’s Autism at Work program, please visit the Diversity & Inclusion area of sap.com. And to learn more about how our customers are also fulfilling their commitments to change the world, check out sap.com/bestrun.
Lloyd Adams is Eagles Autism Challenge executive sponsor and managing director of the East Region for SAP North America.