Stephanie Hack
Stephanie Hack
Sales Program Management Manager
April 02, 2018

Autism at Work—Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

Sara & Jonah in a tree

Being a single mom of eight-year-old twins is challenging, especially when one has autism. When I say it’s a challenge, it’s almost impossible to understand what daily life with an autistic child is like unless you live it.

The autism spectrum is so wide that there are no two identical or even similar family dynamics—and it can be all-consuming. But having a child on the spectrum is a daily reminder of just how strong and capable you can be when faced with a seemingly insurmountable challenge.

At age two, one of my twins, Jonah, was diagnosed with moderate-to-severe classic autism. At the time, I was working in a highly visible leadership role that required a lot of travel. My son’s diagnosis changed everything.

I knew that for him to progress, he would need me at home, working with him in the evenings after long days of therapy. I decided to find a company that valued not only my work contributions but the contributions I made in my personal life as well. That’s when I joined Accenture.

Support at work
That was nearly five years ago, and working at Accenture has been everything I thought it would be. I work remotely and rarely travel, which means I am available at various times of the day to support my son’s needs.

As the mom of an autistic child, the challenge is to make sure my son is getting the best care and education while I am focused on work. One of the best benefits of working at Accenture is that there are positions that do not require extensive travel; and with our regional model, this is even more true. I can move anywhere in the world to get the care my child needs and still work at Accenture, which is a remarkable benefit.

And moving to care for my son became a reality. To access alternative medical treatments and a more conducive climate to support Jonah’s various conditions, I relocated my family—and I kept my job. Accenture is truly committed to supporting the whole person, and I am very committed to researching, advocating, and empowering people impacted by autism, especially my child and family.

"Eliminate the word 'impossible' from your vocabulary. If it needs to happen, buckle down, figure it out, and make it happen."

When I first joined Accenture, I knew I couldn’t possibly be the only employee with a child on the spectrum, but I couldn’t find an existing support group within the company. So, I took the lead and founded Accenture’s autism Empowerment & Support Group (AE&SG).

Three years later, the AE&SG membership has grown to about 400 members, offering a confidential, informational, and supportive environment to empower parents and caretakers of children with autism. The group participates in monthly education calls to learn about new innovations in therapies, as well as a series called “Pulling My Hair Out,” which offers a platform for our members to vent, share stories and get support from one another.

My advice to adapt to changing family needs: Eliminate the word “impossible” from your vocabulary. If it needs to happen, we buckle down, figure it out, and make it happen. Impossibility is simply not part of my thought process.

Life away from work
My biggest challenge is the physical, mental and spiritual exhaustion that comes from being a single parent. It’s a daily struggle, compounded by autism. However, I constantly remind myself that this time with my children is fleeting. When I’m not working, I spend time with them, travelling, watching movies, going to trampoline and skate parks, and just having fun.

Though it’s rare these days, I also love to read, do research, learn about new developments in science, walk, do yoga and watch documentaries. I also spend at least five minutes meditating at night to realign my mindset to the positive.

April is Autism Awareness Month, with April 2 designated by the United Nations as World autism Awareness Day to raise international acceptance about people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Most of us know someone touched by autism, and our Accenture people are no exception.

Want to join a company where you can bring your whole self to work? Join our team today.

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Stephanie I really enjoyed your story. Thank you for sharing.

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