Around one in 100 people in the UK are autistic and yet only 16% of adults with autism are in full-time work. These are concerning statistics, which, in the context of rising unemployment figures, are potentially set to worsen as companies become more cautious in their hiring patterns. However, as we start to come to terms with the impact of the recent pandemic and find new ways of working, it’s vital for businesses to adapt in order to thrive and the arguments for employing autistic people are more compelling than ever.
Not only will a neurodiverse workforce that reflects the clients and communities in which you work become vital to success, but it will also help promote an environment of understanding, acceptance and inclusion among all employees. Importantly, in a post-pandemic world, difference can help challenge ways of working, drive innovation and improve efficiency.
One of the barriers to entry is a lack of understanding from employers about what adjustments need to be made to help accommodate individuals with autism. As this is a condition that manifests itself in many ways across the spectrum, it’s difficult to adopt a one size fits all approach.
It’s important to recognise that there are four key areas of difference that need to be considered when managing an autistic person in the workplace. These are social communication, social interaction, social imagination and the sensory system. Through our partnership with Ambitious about Autism we’re able to share some of their top tips to include autism in the workplace, taking these key differences into account:
- Talk to your autistic colleague about what support they need – make sure you ask questions around sensory differences
- Be flexible with working patterns and let people take short breaks if they need to
- Give available choices – but try to limit these where appropriate
- If you give verbal instructions, follow them up promptly with a simple written summary, test understanding in a different language and always detail actions and what will happen next
- When you set a new task, demonstrate how it should be done
- Use visual information or reiterate your point
- Do not assume that the person knows what you intend to do – explain what will happen and why
- Allow time for people to process information
- Speak and write in clear, literal sentences
- Make deadlines clear, check in on progress and let people know about changes well in advance
- Explain when and how you’ll be available to answer questions during the day
For further information on how you can support autism in the workplace or to become an Employ Autism partner please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or see https://www.ambitiousaboutautism.org.uk/what-we-do/employment for more information.