Top 5 Things to Know About Autism and Employment

Top 5 Things to Know About Autism and Employment

To get a snapshot of successful future hiring trends, it’s always a good idea to look to the big players in the game. In recent years, major corporations such as Google, Ford, and Microsoft have all started up dedicated autism hiring programs to tap into the wealth of skills and abilities that neurodivergent workers bring to the table. However, these behemoths all have a lot of money and time to hire teams of autism experts to help them get the best out of their new employees. For smaller businesses looking at autism tech employment, here are 10 things you need to know about autism and full-time employment:

1.No two autistic individuals are alike

There’s an old saying in the autistic community: once you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.  Meaning that it covers a wide range of symptoms and abilities. In the workplace, this means that you and your team can’t make any generalized assumptions about autism and that you also need to take the time to really get to know your new employee before they step through the door on day one. This will require time and effort, but you’ll have an idea of the kinds of accommodations they’ll need to be successful, as well as the gaps in their knowledge and skills that you’ll need to work on to help them thrive. 

2. High expectations are key

Part of the reason for chronic underemployment rates for autistic adults (almost 80% across British Columbia) is the lack of high expectations placed on autistic individuals. The current school system isn’t set up to cater for neurodivergence, and most autistic students find themselves pushed to the edges of education, which in turn means they come out into the world without being pushed to be the best version of themselves. In the workplace, this means that many autistic workers may struggle to meet the demands of the job initially, but with the right training and support, they will rise to (and will appreciate) high expectations of their work and conduct. 

3. Be ready to be concrete

One of the hallmark traits that many individuals on the autism spectrum show are a black-and-white vision of the world. This applies to many things, from their moral standpoint to how they interpret language. Many of them find abstract linguistic strategies challenging, such as idioms and sarcasm. You’ll need to work with your staff to help everyone talk in more concrete terms (i.e. to say what they mean and mean what they say). A by-product of this switch is that you’ll notice overall communications and morale improve as there’s less opportunity for gossip and misunderstandings when you’re using concrete language. 

4. Train your staff

Sadly, there still exists a whole host of negative stereotypes surrounding autism.  Think of the savant trope in Rainman or the bumbling professor in The Big Bang Theory. It’s also not helped by the acceptability of comments from neurotypicals such as “I’m a little bit autistic about my spreadsheets” when what they mean is that they like to focus hard on their work. As you get ready to introduce your new autistic hire to your company, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve undertaken whole staff training about what autism is, what it isn’t, and how they can adapt their own practices and styles to become more autism-friendly at work. 

4. Make changes slowly

Last but not least, it’s important to recognize that you will need to make changes to your organization to become truly autism-friendly. Some of these will need to take place quickly as part of the onboarding process, such as a sensory-sensitive working environment, and a workplace mentor.  The important thing to remember with these larger changes is to go slowly so that your entire staff has time to adapt to each change as it comes. The best way to build social inclusion is to make sure that everyone is on board with the project at every step of the way. 

Get professional help

It’s important to know all of these things about autism and employment as you get ready to start your neurodivergent journey. However, it can feel overwhelming to do it by yourself, especially if you don’t have experience with autistic individuals. Teaming up with an autism talent management agency is a great way to get professional help, training, and ongoing support as you bring the benefits of autism to your business. 

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