autism, workplace, barriers, TD Bank

TD Bank: How Workplaces Can Help Remove Barriers to Benefit Employees with Autism

While it’s clear that workplaces of the future need to access more diverse pools of talent to thrive, the question is how can they become more accommodating and inclusive?

Originally Published by TD Bank.

Anthony Spezzano joined the Capital Markets Risk Management group at TD in 2017 at the age of 22. A recent graduate with a degree in Cognitive Science, Spezzano was keen to turn his problem-solving abilities into meaningful employment.

As someone with autism, Spezzano was concerned that he might struggle to find a workplace where his skills would be fully utilized. He quickly discovered that the typical recruitment process didn’t provide him the opportunity to present himself in the best way to potential employers.

While it’s clear that workplaces of the future need to access more diverse pools of talent to thrive, the question is how can they become more accommodating and inclusive?

Below, Spezzano shares his thoughts on his own employment experience and how organizations can work to improve their recruitment process.

Q: You were diagnosed with autism at age 20. What impact did this diagnosis have on your life?

A: It was totally eye-opening, like being given the answer to a riddle. Sure, there was an external bias I needed to be aware of as a result but there was also a personal catharsis involved with gaining an understanding of my behavior.

I was raised in numerous foster homes in about a dozen cities and attended half a dozen schools. I had been given so much advice over the years on how to alter my emotional and behavioral make up and how to correct my academic performance but there had never been any indication that I was on the autism spectrum. The diagnosis removed the mystery from what I was experiencing.

Q: Did you have concerns when seeking employment opportunities after graduation?

A: I was worried I might not be rewarded with meaningful work. It’s assumed that individuals always need to adapt to the working environment and the roles required of them, and never the other way around. Fear of settling, unutilized ability, and/or the need to frequently compromise was discouraging to me, but I still applied myself. I excel with clear details, frameworks and technical parameters. One concern I had with disclosing my autism was whether the workplace could accommodate my needs. It’s not that I am incapable of adapting, but it is much easier if the workplace also adapts to the individual to better use their aptitude.

Q: Did the job interview process for TD differ from any previous interview experiences you’ve had?

A: When applying for a job you must consider if you can sell yourself in the interview setting. For example, is it a panel or one-on-one or over the phone? I might not be the most comfortable in some scenarios, but I might be more comfortable in others. Because TD is committed to sourcing diverse talent, it works with Specialisterne – an organization that helps companies hire individuals on the autism spectrum. That meant I was offered a tailored application process that considered my neurodiversity. The potential role offered to me also complemented my abilities.

Q: Can you tell us more about the interview process? 

A: The process with Specialisterne focused on capturing my aptitudes. My behaviors were isolated in a controlled environment where stimuli, both new and familiar to me, were monitored by Specialisterne and my reactions were gauged. For example, my attention span and cognitive flexibility were measured during a workshop where I was given plastic building blocks, a programmable robotics kit equipped with sensors, and a laptop. Using these toys and technology, I was asked to create and solve problems such as programming an autonomous car robot. All of these tasks helped to assess my fit within possible work roles. For the first time in an interview, I didn’t feel overlooked.

Q: What has your experience at TD been like to date?

A: Before I started I felt a little anxious about whether I would be accepted. But I need not have worried. There’s an ecosystem here of integrity and inclusion that extends beyond your immediate working group. While there are some work groups where you may witness this more and others less, the guiding principles of this organization are, in my opinion, golden. Add to that a management approach that is emotionally intelligent and I find that there’s a real opportunity here to grow and learn.

Q: What are a couple of things organizations can do to better the recruitment process for people on the autism spectrum?

A: Creating an environment where unique individual needs are considered as part of the process is imperative. Showing you’re an organization that offers accommodation, while demonstrating adaptability, can help make you an incredible ally. The organizations of the future will be built around helping to create the best working conditions for many kinds of diversity, including diversity of thought.

Q: Is there anything else about autism and the workplace that you think is important for people to know? 

A: Being diagnosed with autism was huge for me and revealed to me how little people know and how unprepared they are to be allies for those on the autism spectrum.

I’d suggest every organization should work towards dedicating as many resources as possible that go beyond just awareness of the autism spectrum. There needs to be true engagement in hiring and working with people on the spectrum to be better equipped to fully harness their strengths in the workplace.

To learn more about Specialisterne (either as a business or as a candidate), visit:

Latest News

San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco Declares War on Racism; People 55 and Older Face Historic Levels of Unemployment; and More.

San Francisco begins a citywide war on racism and discrimination. Known as the birthplace of the “Summer of Love” and the counterculture movement of the 1960s, San Francisco has long stood as a bastion of individuality and inclusion. And now the city is continuing that fight with the launch of…

portrait of Abraham Lincoln

Was Abraham Lincoln a Racist?

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s mention of Abraham Lincoln’s name during the third presidential debate on Thursday, Oct. 22, was one of the most memorable exchanges in the final presidential debate of 2020. It also caused Lincoln to become a trending topic over much of social media in the hours…

AOC celebrates a victory in Among Us during her Twitch stream

AOC Livestreamed ‘Among Us’ on Twitch to Encourage Everyone (but Particularly Young People) to Vote

New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) is stepping up Democratic efforts to make sure young voters are prepared when heading to the polls on Election Day, especially in light of COVID-19. On Oct. 21, 2020, AOC livestreamed on Twitch to engage with the younger demographic that frequents the video game-centric…

Black Lives Matter face mask for preventing spread of COVID-19

BLM T-shirts and Trump Masks Cause Uproar at Early Polling Locations; New Credit Cards Allow Trans Individuals to Use Preferred Name; and More

BLM T-shirts and Trump masks cause uproar at early polling locations. Voters’ choice of clothing when heading to the polls in Florida and Tennessee has begun making headlines across the country. The Washington Post reported that Miami police officer Daniel Ubeda has come under fire for wearing a Trump-endorsing face…

Close-up image of COVID-19 virus

Black and Latinx Individuals Increasingly Worried About Impact of COVID-19 on Career; Potential Spike in New Disabilities Due to Pandemic; and More

More than 50% of Blacks and Latinx individuals significantly worried about finances and career prospects due to pandemic. COVID-19 continues to be top of mind for most of the country, especially as cases appear to be worsening in our current third wave of the illness. But a new survey of…

Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.)

Rep. Jahana Hayes Attacked in Racist Campaign Town Hall; 1 in 4 Americans Unemployed According to New Data from Axios; and More

Racist trolls interrupt Zoom town hall hosted by Jahana Hayes, Connecticut’s first Black congresswoman. “I am not OK,” wrote Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.) in a moving post describing a violent attack that took place at one of her recent campaign events. Ten minutes into the Zoom town hall for one…

reproductive, benefits, workplace

The Importance of Reproductive Benefits in the Workplace

With President Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to take the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat, the issue of reproductive rights has again become a hot button topic. While Ginsburg repeatedly voted against restrictions on birth control and abortion access, the historically conservative Barrett is expected to tip the…