Hiring an individual on the autism spectrum will bring so many positive benefits to your organization. For the individual themselves, your job offer will provide a sense of independence and security, as well as unlocking various parts of society that you need a steady source of income to access. For your external brand, you’ll be seen as being more inclusive, and flexible enough to accommodate any and all employees. Finally, your staff will become empathic, not just with your new employee but with each other and their clients. It’s clearly a win-win-win situation.
However, no one ever said it was an easy task to undertake. People with autism see and interpret the world in dramatically different ways to their neurotypical counterparts, from how they view problematic scenarios to interacting with other people. Creating an autism-friendly work environment will be an essential component of your onboarding process, but it’s not as difficult as it sounds. Here are 5 easy ways to create a more autism-inclusive workplace:
- Reducing sensory input – one of the challenges facing individuals with ASD at work is the sheer amount of sensory input that is part and parcel of the workplace: lights, computers, phones and people talking can easily overwhelm them. Take steps to create a less stimulating environment for your new employee, which could be a private office or cubicle to help them manage their sensory input.
- Prepare in advance for change – sudden changes in routines or expectations are hard for people on the spectrum, so make sure you give them advance notice of any alterations to their routines.
- Spell out social norms and etiquette – many people on the spectrum find it hard to read the subtle nuances in cadence and body language that form the backbone of many interpersonal relationships. There will also be unwritten codes of conduct (for example, when and how to use people’s titles when talking to them) that will need to explained clearly.
- Clear, concise communication – people with autism perform best with clear and concrete language. Try to encourage everyone to avoid confusing linguistic tools like idioms, metaphors and sarcasm as these will make it harder for your new employee to build positive working relationships.
- Avoid interruptions – while many people with autism have an incredible ability for high intensity focus on a specific tasks, they can also find it hard to regain this concentration if they are disrupted. To this end, an autism-friendly environment will allow the individual to get on with their tasks with as few disruptions as possible.
Hopefully as you read that list, you should recognize that a lot of these recommendations will be beneficial for your entire staff, and the climate and culture of your organization. Imagine a place where clear communication was the norm, where people allowed each other to work without interruption and all changes were shared and communicated well in advance. Suddenly, these accommodations that you’ll need to make to create an autism friendly work environment seem to be positive changes that will drive your company forward.