Working effectively with employees with autism

Taking on an autistic employee can prove beneficial for an employer due to the range of exceptional skills they can bring to the workplace. The potential issues lie in difficulties with interacting with fellow staff members, and others’ lack of understanding. As a result, autistic employees may require certain levels of support within a work environment.

Sometimes an autistic employee can say the ‘wrong’ thing to another member of staff, misread social cues, or appear not to want to communicate with them at all. In these cases, employees can often take offence, and it is important to remind them that any offence caused is unintentional and will be due to difficulties with communication, subject to the autistic employee being comfortable about sharing details of the condition.

There are some ways to consider dealing with autistic employees:

  • Be clear and thorough in your expectations of the job role. If adaptations need to be made to the job make sure employees are aware that this is to help them do their job well, not that they need special treatment.
  • Provide in-depth training. This can be informal or formal, but must be clear and structured. Do not infer or imply anything as there is a good chance the employee will not pick up on your meaning. Timetables and to-do lists are a great way of keeping the workload well structured, as well as set lunch and break times and regular one-on-one reviews.
  • Make sure feedback is honest and sensitive, but also clear and direct. Outline simply and clearly what has gone wrong, and how the issue can be fixed.
  • Be aware that autistic people can suffer from sensory distractions. Make sure their workspace is free of any strong sensory inputs, such as bright/flashing lights, consistent loud noises.
  • Finally, make sure other staff are educated and aware of the condition. This will increase understanding and help produce a more positive work environment for both the autistic employee and those who work with them.

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