Autism is a developmental condition affecting communication, social interaction, and language skills. It can cause problems with social skills, behaviour, sensory issues as people can be over and under sensitive to certain sounds, tastes and textures. People with Autism process more information from their senses so aspects of the environment do seem more vivid and they do this quickly. It can cause repetitive behaviour and a desire for routine and structure, a dislike of change. It can cause fixed interests and difficulties with flexible thought. It is thought to affect at least 1 in 100 people (NHS 2019) It makes starting and maintaining conversations and friendships more challenging. It is a spectrum and can affect people in varying and different ways. It affects how they experience the world around them and how they manage social situations. They can find it hard to read other people’s emotions and express their own emotions. Both verbal and nonverbal communication can be hard. They find it hard to imagine situations.
What are Autism Spectrum Conditions? NAS short video clip
There are some real potential strengths in the work setting such as with information processing and memory, with attention to the details and spotting errors or patterns, with the liking for routine, the dedication and honesty. As people with Autism will know their condition can also give them valuable workplace qualities and skills for example, they can have a very logical factual mind and a good memory for facts. Often they enjoy repetitive tasks, they can be very reliable and organised completing tasks systematically. At work people with Autism need to work with there employer to maximise their abilities and developing strategies for their difficulties like developing routines and structure, using visual reinforcement were possible and sequencing tasks as well as where possible planning ahead. To encourage their best work and reduce stress thought should be put into their work station such as having a quiet office. They need to stay aware their time needs balancing on all aspects of their job role, coaching from Access to Work could help if needed. Instructions need to be clear and direct and not open ended. Feedback for work needs to be regular, constructive and direct.
In a work setting the types of difficulty someone on the Autism spectrum may face (although everyone is different) include problems socially such as understanding unspoken social rules or parts of organisational culture. Problems therefore with co-workers, such as understanding jokes, there can be a tendency to take language to literally and struggle also with hypothetical situations. They may come across over blunt or rude unintentionally as they can be very honest but struggle with social rules and clues. There may be problems with oral tasks like making phone calls or speaking up in meetings or if needed asking for help. Problems with sensitivity to certain sounds being over or under sensitive to noise or lighting can lead to burn out. Problems working in an open office and there may be problems managing change and wanting a routine. Problems following a dress code due to problems with certain textures. These are however generalisations and you need to work with the person to understand their strengths, and difficulties and not make assumptions. If you have Autism you may like to consider sitting down with your manager or HR and discussing your situation and any reasonable adjustments you may feel you would benefit from as workplaces have a legal duty under the Equality Act (2010).
You may like to get a Clear Talents Profile you can discuss with your boss as this would help explain your strengths and difficulties so you get the chance to perform at your best and be treated fairly. It is a good way to identify strategies that you may not have thought of without this online assessment http://cleartalents.com/
Also you may like to apply for Access to Work a Government fund to minimise your disability at work. If you do not know how they can help you can have an in-work assessment by them and they can make recommendations like for equipment or coaching/mentoring or training for you on what to expect in the workplace from the NAS. They can also recommend training for the people you work with but it is up to you what help you accept.
To understand Autism better you may find it useful to watch the following clips the National Autistic Society too much information campaign explains what it is like to have Autism, short video clip showing a young person and her day and how the interaction with the environment and others can sometimes lead to sensory overload and too much information
NAS Could you face the rejection NAS short video clip life with Autism and job interviews what the experience can be like going to an interview
Autism Speaks shows a video of a young women with non verbal autism and her frustrations day to day. In this clip it is her experience in a busy cafe with her family causing her anxiety and sensory overload