by Erica Leung~Happy Autism Awareness Month! Are you all ready to light it up blue? Because it is the month to spread awareness, I believe it is fitting to shine a spotlight on how major corporations can improve accommodations to better work with and maximize the full potential of employees on the Autism Spectrum.
Below are guidelines from my vantage point as an employee with Autism that can make all the difference in the work life of someone with a disability.
1) Offer an alternative workspace when needed
Often the constant noise of different phones ringing and people talking at the same time overwhelms me. It is very difficult for a person with Autism to focus on an assignment at hand when other stimuli are happening at the same time. By having a quiet space in which to work, productivity can be raised tremendously, because many people with Autism are exceptionally detail-oriented.
2) Allow the use of adaptive technology equipment in all meetings and seminars
Due to fine motor skills many of us have a hard time holding writing instruments for prolonged periods of time. Being able to use a smartphone or laptop to take notes during meetings guarantees that all information said and heard will be jotted down. Also, once the meeting is over I can go back later and screen out what data is important and what is more or less conversational gossip
3) Please confirm everything by email
Verbal communication is definitely not my strong point. I rarely ever understand sarcastic jokes that are part of individual and group connections. At times I also focus on the wrong details, which results in unintentional lapses in judgment. With email, everything is straightforward and I can then easily comprehend what is really being asked of me.
4) Ask questions to make sure I know what is really going on.
Like many people with Autism I am very good at mimicking word for word what I hear from another person. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean I know what is really happening. There is a difference between listening and comprehending. This is something that most neurotypical individuals don’t understand. It takes seconds for someone like me to listen but can take up to hours, days, or even years, to comprehend something, depending on its complexity
5) Be Patient and don’t raise your voice
Patience is a virtue when dealing with someone who has Autism Spectrum Disorder. Often we don’t pick up on social cues or realize when our reactions are seen as inappropriate. If a social mistake is made, do not lose your temper, as we most likely won’t understand why you are angry in the first place. It is best to pull us aside and calmly explain what we did wrong so we know how to make changes in the future.
6) Drill and Repeat
One of the best ways to get a person with Autism to remember procedures and routines is to constantly drill and repeat the steps over again until it becomes second nature. Once something is remembered it is stored in our brains forever and we can competently do what is required of us.
While many employers strive to become equal opportunity employers, the sad fact is that they do not go out of their way to help those square pegs that don’t fit into the round holes. Being both a square peg and a person with Autism, it is my hope that one day every major worldwide corporation can adapt these simple guidelines to the benefit of all.