Autism is a complex developmental disorder that defies simple explanation. Individuals with autism have great potential and a wide range of abilities. This page will help you learn a little bit more about autism and autism in the workplace. We hope you find it useful.
What is autism?
- A different way of thinking and learning
- A lifelong neurological disorder that affects the ability to communicate and interact socially
- A spectrum disorder – the range of abilities and difficulties is very different for each person
- The abbreviation “ASD” refers to autism (autistic disorder), Asperger Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)
How common is autism?
According to recent CDC statistics, autism:
- Affects 1 in 59 people
- Is 5 times more common in males
- Occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups
- Work best in an orderly, focused setting with specific tasks
- Are often introverted and find normal social settings difficult
- May take words and expressions literally and have difficulty understanding hidden or subtle meanings
- Have difficulty engaging in reciprocal social interactions with others
- May need accommodations in the workplace
- Every person with autism is unique with a different profile of strengths and challenges. No two individuals manifest the same characteristics to the same degree.
What are accommodations?
Supports individuals with disabilities need in order to better succeed in their environment. Examples in the workplace include extra breaks, noise-canceling headphones, or dimmed lighting. For more examples, click here.
How can I help my employee with autism?
Set the Stage for Success
- Get to know your employee
- Foster a welcoming and supportive workplace
- Maximize your company's existing support systems
- Give clear directions and performance feedback
Provide Environmental Accomodations
- Limit external stimuli. Examples include few or no windows and seating away from high foot traffic areas
- Offer help with organization if necessary
- Provide clear social and work guidelines (in writing may be best)
- Arrange small breaks throughout the day
Support Your Staff
Accommodate Job Coaches
A job coach is an approved specialist who helps the employee learn to perform a job to the employer’s terms and learn the skills needed for success at the job site. The job coach shadows the employee and ensures that the employee completes all of his or her work – until the employee is fully independent.
Assign a Mentor
- An in-house employee who oversees and guides an employee with autism to help them better succeed at their job
- Mentors can offer a deeper explanation of everyday work life
Why hire persons with autism?
- Inclined to perform repetitive tasks efficiently and analyze problems from unique angles
- Uniquely suited for number-crunching and systematic thinking, software testing, and other tasks requiring an analytical mindset
- Detail-oriented, disciplined, honest, reliable
- Have lower or equal absenteeism rates compared to other employees
- Are often creative, talented, and innovative
- Employers have noted that when an individual with autism is in the workplace there is a positive impact on morale, retention, and corporate culture