Impact on People with Autism
Many people with autism survive on disability pensions, in poverty, with very few options. The very nature of their autism makes getting and keeping a job almost an insurmountable challenge.
Equally frustrating to autistics, is society’s expectations that people on the autism spectrum should “adapt” to the neurotypical world and “behave” like a neurotypical. To illustrate the absurdity of this expectation is to compare it to a person with a physical challenge. Would we ever expect a mobility-challenged individual dependent on a wheelchair to get up and walk? Of course, we wouldn’t and it’s offensive to our sensibilities to even suggest such a thing. But that, in essence, is what society often expects from adults with autism, even when employed and especially if they are cognitively-able.
Suffice it to say, anyone with Autism Spectrum Disorder will be bringing their autism to the office; it is not something they can leave at home. And just like society creates wheelchair-friendly environments for individuals with a physical disability, we as employers can make the workplace more accepting and supportive for people on the spectrum.
Being autism-friendly takes curiosity and flexible thinking.
From a big picture perspective, autism-friendly processes include adjustments in our hiring, onboarding and retention practices.
From an everyday standpoint, it involves being aware and non-judgmental about autistic behaviours. Let’s become curious instead. For example, people on the autism spectrum can have difficulty making eye contact. Rather than thinking they are dishonest or hiding something (judgement), be curious. You’ll learn that the lack of eye contact may be due to sensory overload, which is a manifestation of their autism that cannot be helped. From this, we can see that understanding autism is key to helping both autistics and employers alike.
People with autism are given so few opportunities that when they do manage to land a job, they truly value the job and strive to do their best. Autistics are driven to live up to both their own and other’s expectations when being employed. Even during down times such as unavoidable work stoppages, they will be concerned about being productive – now that’s an employer’s dream!
Getting hired is life-changing to people on the autism spectrum.
Autism is just part of the continuum of what it means to be human – autism does not define a person; it is just one aspect of who that person is. Having a job gives autistic adults the opportunity to build their confidence through positive, life-affirming experiences. They enjoy financial stability, which in turn enables them to expand their personal horizons, develop interests and hobbies, live independently, and pursue relationships – all the things neurotypicals take for granted.
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