How to work with adults on the Autism Spectrum Disorder
People with autism can have exceptional abilities and be an asset in many companies. However, there is a lot of stigma attached to hiring people with autism. Much of this is because companies do not understand what autism is, and that making a workplace autism-friendly is really not so difficult as they perhaps believe.
Autism is a neurological condition that affects the functioning of the brain. The effects of the disorder vary greatly. Many people with autism have difficulty in processing sensory information, communicating, and socializing.
Here are some things to keep in mind to make a workplace autism-friendly:
- Offer a practice activity during the interview. This may be the best way for someone with autism to show his or skills. It can be hard for people with autism to talk about themselves, or their achievements. It also helps employers make a more accurate hiring decision.
- As the condition varies with each individual, it helps to ask the person for guidance while setting up his or her work space.
When it comes to people with mobility challenges, like wheelchair users for instance, there are some fairly major physical changes needed in an office area so people can move around easily. People with autism need fewer inputs comparatively. It could be a quiet place where someone can work. It does not have to be a room you set aide, but just a quiet area free of sensory overloads where people can de-compress – Nidhi Singhal, Director (Research and Trainings), Action for Autism
- Some of the things to look at are the amount of noise, light, and other distractions. It’s better to make the work area free of fluorescent or bright lights, loud noises, strong smells, and certain tactile inputs that may bother a person with autism.
- Establish a direct and clear communication. This is because a person with autism may find it hard to interpret nonverbal cues.
- Use simple and minimal language. Give the person time to respond. Don’t present too much information at once. Avoid the use of sarcasm, as this may be taken literally.
- State clearly what needs to be done and approximately how long it will take. For example – ‘Read this letter. Then sign here’, or ‘This will take 15 minutes. Let me know if that is okay’.
- If possible, break job tasks into smaller parts and set a time frame for each task to be completed.
- Some support systems like written checklists, reminders, or labelling items could help. Such practices help all employees understand their routines, without being dependent on others for help. It also helps to have employees well integrated, regardless of whether or not he or she has a disability.
Adding visuals, like signages, in the workplace is important. The whole concept of universal design is to make all facilities accessible to all. It is not just about people with autism. When you add colour codes and make signage that is non-literacy dependent, you are making the workplace accessible for all – Nidhi Singhal, Director (Research and Trainings), Action for Autism
- Be positive and calm when you speak to a person with autism. Make sure all communication is done in a positive way.
- Avoid eye contact, if you see the other person doing that Often people with autism may be uncomfortable making eye contact. If that’s the case, follow their lead.