5 ways workplaces can support workers on the autism spectrum
5 ways workplaces can support workers on the autistic spectrum
An estimated one in seven people in the UK are neurodivergent, which includes people with dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, autistic individuals, and other neurological functions. However, figures suggest only 22% of autistic adults in the UK are in employment.
Many workplaces don’t support workers on the autism spectrum, which creates overwhelming experiences for autistic individuals that begins well before starting a new job. Everything from new colleagues and work duties to a new environment, can contribute to feeling anxious and overwhelmed in the workplace.
Workplaces will discover many benefits of autism in the workplace when they are able to make autism-inclusive adjustments.
An Interview is one of the first stages of employment in any workplace. Interviews, along with resumes, can be barriers for autistic individuals. Changes to the way interviews are carried out, whether providing options for written assessments or giving autistic candidates the questions ahead of time, are ways to make your recruitment practices more autism inclusive. If you want to assess autistic applicants, work trials are a practical and innovative way to engage a neurodiverse workforce.
2. Provide a mentor
Providing a mentor to your autistic employees can help them learn acceptable social skills in the workplace, including how to interact with co-workers, understand different social signs and cues, and understand what unacceptable behaviour is. By providing day-to-day guidance, feedback, and reassurance, it can ensure your employees feel valued and can reduce work-related anxieties. Offering ongoing support will allow for consistent feedback, which will create reassurance and build confidence in your employees
Photograph: Iris Care Group
3. Create personal spaces
Overstimulating environments in the workplace can lead to traumatising experiences and may discourage seeking out employment again. Creating personal spaces will provide a safe space where autistic workers can retreat to when feeling overstimulated. A few ways to reduce sensory overload in the workplace are to locate individuals in a quieter or less bright part of the office, maximise natural light, easily control temperatures, reduce strong smells, and provide sound-cancelling headphones. Sometimes this may even require changing the work location to be closer to home or other support facilities.
4. Alternate forms of communication
Some autistic individuals have difficulty communicating in traditional ways and benefit from using alternative forms of communication. Setting clear expectations and assigning priorities of tasks will help with effective communication. Other alternate forms of communication to consider are providing advanced notice of meetings and meeting topics, accepting written responses (email or text messages) instead of verbal responses, and minimising personal conversation away from work areas. Consider using tablets to create visual schedules, step-by-step checklists, and reminders to help autistic workers complete tasks successfully and manage their time appropriately.
Another way a workplace can support autistic individuals is through internal training. Autism training for managers and other staff is an important step in understanding autistic individuals and recognising autistic positives and skills. Training will help to identify someone who will drive inclusion practices in your organisation and make it work long-term. As more staff are trained in working in a neuro-diverse environment, inclusion is thoughtfully incorporated into various aspects of the business, including harassment and bullying policies, recruitment processes, and environmental changes. Keep information about autism and support services readily available so it’s easily accessible for all workers.
Photograph: Antoni Shkraba
Reasonable adjustments for autism in the workplace
There are many reasonable adjustments to create an autism-inclusive workplace, and they often don’t cost anything to implement. Here are some suggestions for reasonable adjustments you can make in your workplace:
Create a clear routine and work schedule
Flexible work hours and paid time off when needed
Expectations are clear, logical, and concise
Use video modelling to teach skills and job tasks visually
Offer extra breaks when needed
Written instructions and policies are clearly communicated
Provide personal digital assistants (PDAs) such as smartphones, iPads or tablets and utilize mobile apps to assist with task management and organisation
Benefits of autism in the workplace
When you’re able to meet the needs of an autistic individual and understand their strengths and skills, it creates many benefits in the workplace. Autistic individuals are often skilled and dedicated employees; they can be highly detail-oriented, productive, creative, and reliable. You can gain new perspectives by bringing in someone with a different way of thinking.
Iris Care Group operates Beechwood College, an inspirational education facility for individuals with Autistic Spectrum Disorders. As part of our education offering, our curriculum includes Team Enterprise, Employability Skills, and Work Experience to help prepare our students for the workplace.