I was diagnosed with autism at an early age and just like most people with autism, my experiences weren’t exactly the happiest.
Finding work isn’t easy for individuals with autism. In fact, statistics show that only 14 percent of individuals with the disorder in the U.S. have a stable, paying job.
But fortunately, more and more organizations are trying to come up with effective strategies to accommodate their neurodiverse employees.
As a manager, you’re responsible for ensuring every member of your team feels welcomed and comfortable in the workplace.
And just as you have expectations of your team, your autistic employees also have expectations of you. With that in mind, here’s what you can do to make them feel more welcomed:
Accept that Every Autistic Person is Different
There’s a reason why it’s called “autism spectrum.” Spectrum means that it doesn’t have a fixed set of symptoms and therefore, no two employees with the disorder will be the same.
You can’t expect one to perform as well as the other. You can’t compare them to each other.
For example: if one employee is fast, it’s not guaranteed the other will be too.
But they will have a few similarities.
For example, they’ll both want a structured and organized environment to work in. They’ll both want to work in a noise-free environment, and one without bright lights.
Remember that if you’ve met one autistic person, you haven’t met all of them. Avoid giving in to stereotypes and misconceptions. If an employee is good at their job, doesn’t mean they don’t have autism or they have a “mild” version of it.
Remember to refer to point two: every autistic person is different.
There are plenty of successful people with autism like Anthony Hopkins, Courtney Love, Matt Savage, and Satoshi Tajiri.
Be Open When Learning about Your Employees
I’ve noticed that a lot of employers avoid asking questions because they’re afraid to offend us. But unless you ask, you’ll never know what we need.
Of course, it’s good to be careful and tactful in broaching certain questions. But other than that, many autistic people want employers to learn about the spectrum. Ask questions, do your research, and educate everyone at the workplace.
Give Them Freedom to Customize Their Work Environment
Give your autistic employees the freedom to customize their environment. We need a flexible workspace. Whether they prefer the lights to be dim, the space being in a quiet area, or a fixed desk, make sure they have the freedom to choose.
Not only will this make everything easier for them, but you’ll also help bring out the best in them when it comes to productivity and performance.
These are a few ways you can make your autistic employees feel safe and happier at work.
As an autism awareness advocate and motivational speaker, I have had the privilege to coach thousands to help them achieve their dreams. Growing up autistic has helped me observe, analyze, and create numerous strategies and methods to help others like me achieve their goals and dreams in life.