Different? Think!

  • Posted on February 17, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 5 minutes

Editor’s note: February 18th is International Asperger’s Day; to mark this awareness day, we are eager to share the words of Senior Consultant Fabrizio Mazzucchi. Neurodiverse individuals bring different ways of thinking, something we very much value at Avanade. We believe that an inclusive and diverse workplace propels creativity, innovation and sustainable growth. Our people are inspired by bold and fresh ideas and one another. Fabrizio’s decision to share his family’s story, personal perspective and journey strengthens our community, and we are pleased to share it with you.

Sometimes life crosses your path like a stone falling from a mountain.

Those events force you to rethink yourself, trying to overcome the obstacles, or risk to fall.

Sometimes the outcomes can help you in become a better person and foster your inner desire to help others (and maybe build a better world!)

My son is 9 years old.

He’s a clever boy, very curious and full of energy.

He loves to play football, to be with his friends and live a happy life.

Sometimes he needs to be on his own, to focus on his interests, to stay in “his own world.” This is due to the fact that he is on the autism spectrum. A high functioning form of it, to be more precise.

That gives him a particular disposition toward specified tasks and particular subjects (for example, he is very able in mathematics, which gives him a good advantage in STEM subjects).

I still remember the day when we discovered his diversity. Honestly, I should have paid more attention to the signals that preluded his diagnosis, that my wife started to notice when he was just a toddler. In the car seat, during long travels, he tended to become turbulent and turned his head nervously from left to right without particular reason.

I used to downplay, but later I recognized that these signs that, if understood in advance, probably would have allowed us to have a quicker diagnosis and set up necessary support for him.

The pivotal event that started everything was a meeting we had with his kindergarten teachers, when they informed us that he was isolating from other children and usually playing repetitive games like piling up Legos or aligning little cars in a row.

We acted immediately by contacting experts in the field (psychologists, neuropsychiatrists); luckily my wife, being a kindergarten teacher herself, had many contacts with subject matter experts. My son had a diagnosis and indications of what could be done to help him overcome this condition, before starting the primary school.

And that’s the key point: The earlier you can discover autism, the greater are the chances that you’re able to start a path that will allow you to overcome the obstacles that neuro-diverse people are presented with in a neurotypical world.

But it was painful for me and my wife. The image of tears flowing from my wife’s eyes when we had the verdict will stay in my mind forever, as will the pain I felt when faced with the question, “What kind of future will he have?”

We were lucky because autism awareness has grown exponentially in the world and particularly in our country, Italy. My son works with specialists in a renowned center near our town, where he goes once a week. His high-functioning autism has only a slight impact on his social abilities, so he has made friends and interacts positively with people – an important component of childhood.

As for me, I’ve learned. I learned from him. And I’ve changed.

Dealing with his disability has caused me to rethink myself, to reset my priorities and expectations, allowing me to change my mindset when approaching other people.

I understand that embracing the differences of others, rather than the similarities, create more fulfilling relationships. I used to surround myself with people that had a mindset that was similar as mine, sometimes with same tastes. But now I appreciate the enrichment that emerges from the uniqueness that everyone brings to a relationship, being at work or in private life.

His need to have tasks (and days) precisely scheduled has forced me to apply project manager skills at home, so I’ve developed a mastery in planning weekends or travel.

I’ve brought all those lessons to job at Avanade, trying to change my perspective on relationships with colleagues and tasks I perform each day. I hope to be better than yesterday, and that tomorrow I will be better than today.

I surely think that dealing with neurodiversity can create a richer workplace. That’s why I started to think about what I could do to help adults on the autism spectrum find a job that can let them live a better life. And I immediately thought of how much Avanade feels the importance of inclusion and diversity.

What if we could expand our commitment beyond gender and racial inclusion? What kind of benefits can neurodiversity bring to our culture and workplace?

I shared these thoughts with our local HR and immediately received enthusiastic support: they understood that this initiative could enhance and innovate our local inclusion and diversity program. Sara Battistella took the commitment of this program, and together we set up an initiative that allowed two people (soon to be three) on the autism spectrum work at Avanade helping our clients.

The project is still ongoing and it’s too early to draw the conclusions, but I feel it will have a positive impact on our business, our workplace and perhaps our lives.

I will always be grateful for having such a wonderful son. I always thought that being a father meant I would teach him to become adult, but as time goes by, I understand that I’m learning from him as much as (if not more than) he’s learning from me.

sue holly-rodway

wow, this made me cry and smile all at once. Thank you so much for sharing xx

March 5, 2020

Umberto Arosio

Great true life story Fabrizio and great example! Thanks for sharing!

March 3, 2020

Mirjam van Olst

Great article Fabrizio!
Thank you for sharing your story and your insights.

February 26, 2020

Nathan Coulling

Your last sentence sums up why diversity in our workforce is so important.  Diversity is our strength, and our focus on inclusion is going to drive us to new heights. 
Thank you for sharing your family’s story. 

February 22, 2020

Waltraud Zäpfler

you're great, all of you together, and just the way you are... :-)
Thanks for this nice article.

February 21, 2020

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