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A Guide To Adult Autism In The Workplace

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For those on the autistic spectrum, hunting for a career can be tough. You can feel secure in your professional skills but scared by the recruiting and interview process, which is typically a test of social skills. Once you obtain a job, you may encounter extra obstacles to keeping employed while preserving your feeling of well-being. You can find yourself in unpleasant situations that overload your senses, or wind up working with individuals who misunderstand or even discriminate against you.

While it might be upsetting to find that work culture typically conforms to the preferences of your neurotypical colleagues, not maintaining a consistent job can make you feel unproductive or hinder your financial independence. The good news is that it’s feasible for you to locate employers that are receptive to the notion of neurodiversity. These sorts of companies will frequently endeavor to suit your demands, and, as a consequence, their businesses will profit from your particular abilities and knowledge.

So, how do you discover work for persons with autism? And how can you succeed in the workplace? It helps to understand your problems, play to your strengths, and know how to overcome setbacks. Armed with such information, you might feel more secure applying to employment and feel more at ease when working a job.

Choosing And Finding Work

As with everyone, whether on the spectrum or not, not every career will be suitable for you. To select the most suited occupations, you must evaluate your personal abilities, shortcomings, and preferences. Numerous individuals with autism are able to find fulfilling jobs in a vast array of professions, including health care, technical services, teaching, and retail.

Identify Your Strengths

Create a list of your particular qualities, then consider occupations that significantly rely on those skills. For instance, do you possess good visual thinking abilities? If so, potential careers include stage design, graphic design, and mechanical engineering.

Conversely, if you have a great eye for seeing minute details and evaluating facts, you may be suited to work as a copy editor. If you excel in math as well, you may also wish to seek opportunities in accounting.

Know Your Weaknesses

Create a list of your vulnerabilities and use it to generate ideas for occupations to avoid. For example, if you struggle with multitasking or memorizing stuff, a job as a waitress might be quite challenging.

Acknowledging your deficiencies might also help you narrow down your selection of preferred occupations. If networking is not your strong suit, a job that allows you to work with few social interruptions, such as stocking shelves, loading trucks, or processing data, may be preferable to a retail position, for example.

Consider Your Preferences

Additional preferences might help you assess if a position is suitable for you. Here are some considerations to make:

Would you be willing to spend additional time in school? Some occupations, such as customer service representative or warehouse worker, require minimal schooling beyond applicable experience. Jobs that are more specialized, such as pipefitter or pharmacy technician, need vocational training or even a bachelor’s degree.

Will the work environment suit your needs? Certain occupations, such as those in supermarkets or restaurants, take occur in environments with a lot of uncontrolled stimuli. Other employment takes place in peaceful workplaces or even allows for remote work. Consider the kind of environments that make you uneasy.

Will the timetable meet your needs? In several sectors, you may be required to cover shifts while employees are absent. However, certain occupations may have very irregular hours. For instance, nurses and repair experts may be often on-call, awaiting the need for their services.

Are your coworkers and managers accommodating? You probably won’t be able to answer this question until at least the interview stage. However, you may always ask relatives and friends about their interactions with individuals in a specific profession or firm.

Coping With Frequent Issues In The Workplace

Individuals with ASD face a high unemployment rate. This might be because many typical companies fail to accommodate some of the more frequent issues people with autism experience. These problems can include:

  • Atypical communication style
  • Difficulty with time management
  • Sensory issues
  • Anxiety
  • Desire for a consistent schedule

Of all, we’re all different, and not every autistic person has the same difficulties or hurdles. For example, you may have anxiety and sensory difficulties yet have no trouble when it comes to organizing your time properly. Just know that many of the issues you experience in the job may be lessened or handled with the correct techniques.

Disclosing Your Diagnosis

Whether you reveal your ASD diagnosis at work depends on your comfort level, and disclosure can have both good and negative consequences. For instance, research indicates that neurotypical individuals tend to have a more favorable opinion of individuals with ASD when their diagnosis is revealed. Another study suggests that transparency may also increase employment opportunities. However, disclosure may also result in employment prejudice for certain autistic employees.

Obviously, in order to receive autism-related workplace accommodations, you must disclose your diagnosis to your employer. However, disclosure is more likely to be advantageous when coworkers and employers are already aware of ASD, embrace neurodiversity, and are prepared to adjust to accommodate your unique talents.

Tip 1: Coping With Common Challenges At Work 

Improve Your Social And Communication Skills

Interpersonal skills are a major obstacle for many people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that may arise during the interview process. The interviewer will test your knowledge and expertise, but will also evaluate your interpersonal abilities.

Some individuals with ASD struggle to interpret and respond to social signals, such as facial expressions and tone inflections. This might result in misunderstandings or even unpleasant situations. Is the interviewer, for instance, being sarcastic? Are they using nonverbal cues to elicit additional information from you? Or do they wish for you to cease speaking? You may leave the interview with the impression that either you or the interviewer have been misunderstood.

Even if you make it through the interview round, careers that largely rely on interpersonal skills can be extremely difficult. For instance, you may be required to answer client complaints on the sales floor or to attend lengthy meetings with coworkers. You may find these situations to be mentally exhausting and upsetting.

Identify And Practice Communication Skills

Interpersonal communication encompasses a wide range of abilities, from being more patient with people to keeping eye contact. Start by determining which talents you wish to enhance and why. For instance, you may like to enhance your awareness of nonverbal clues so you may recognize when someone is disengaged in the discussion. Alternatively, you may choose to enhance your active listening abilities in order to get to know your coworkers better.

Once you have identified the abilities you wish to develop, you can begin to break them down into manageable steps. To improve your listening abilities, you might, for instance, limit ambient distractions, envision what the other person is saying, and then ask clarifying questions. Practice these abilities with relatives and friends who are willing to provide you with feedback. You also have the option of working with a therapist. Once you feel confident, you should begin practicing your abilities in real-world scenarios.

Don’t become overly fixated on perfection. And do not feel compelled to acquire skills or make adjustments you deem unnecessary. Also, keep in mind that communication is bidirectional. Your neurotypical peers must also be willing to make an attempt to communicate with you more effectively.

Modify Your Communication Techniques

Whenever feasible, another technique is to rely on communication strategies that reduce misconceptions. Whether you struggle with verbal communication, for instance, ask your coworkers if you can coordinate assignments and provide status updates via email. Or, if you have trouble concentrating during large business meetings, request one-on-one sessions for guidance and criticism.

Tip 2: Better Manage Your Time

Time management can be a weakness for some individuals with autism, and this can be especially crucial in the job. If your employer assigns you many jobs, you may struggle to prioritize them, move between them, or estimate how long each will take. In other situations, you may constantly struggle to be on time for work.

Use Time Management Tools

When it comes to time management, a variety of methods may be utilized to keep on schedule.

Create a list of daily work obligations using a wall planner, notepad, or smartphone app. Include estimates for how long each task should take, based on your boss’s instructions or your best judgment.

Adjust a timer. When beginning a task, start a timer. It is time to swap chores or take a little rest when the timer goes off. Use a timer that will not disturb your coworkers, such as a vibrating cell phone. If you’re intensely engaged in one activity and believe it’s better to continue working on it after the timer has expired, consult your boss or coworkers.

Tip 3: Manage Sensory Issues

Many adults with ASD have sensory difficulties. Visual, auditory, and olfactory environmental stimuli might be overpowering. Therefore, in the office, fluorescent lights and ringing phones might create pain and serve as a distraction. Uncomfortable are surroundings that are both loud and fast-paced.

Request Accommodations

When your coworkers and managers are ready to accommodate your demands, it is easier to manage sensory challenges in the job. And before they can fulfill your requirements, you must convey them. Explain which feelings are distracting or unsettling for you, and ask for appropriate adjustments. You may choose to sit away from a pulsating overhead light or away from the odors of the breakroom. In order to manage aural distractions, headphones might be effective.

Try Meditation Exercises

Research indicates that mindfulness practices may also be beneficial for enhancing sensory modulation and reducing stress and anxiety. Try out these mindfulness meditation techniques when you are suffering sensory overload or excessive tension.

Concentrate on a feature of the current moment, such as your slow, deep breathing or a calming mantra. Again, collaborate with coworkers and managers to choose a spot where you may take a break and practice mindfulness in solitude.

Tip 4: Manage Your Anxiety

According to research, around 20% of autistic people have a diagnosable anxiety problem. Although most people feel some stress at work, excessive stress and anxiety might increase the likelihood of burnout. This occurs when continuous and severe stress results in symptoms such as a loss of desire, feelings of alienation, frequent headaches, and a weakened immune system.

Anxiety might impact your performance in other ways. For instance, your nervousness may make it difficult to create whole phrases. This might exacerbate any current communication issues and negatively impact your interactions with coworkers. However, there are several methods for reducing stress and managing anxiety symptoms.

Managing your schedule, using relaxation methods, remaining physically active, getting sufficient rest, and managing what you eat and drink can all help to reduce stress and anxiety.

Tip 5: Keep Work Predictable

Individuals with autism frequently choose regular routines. When disarray and unpredictability seep into your calendar, you may feel overwhelmed. Stressful are occupations that involve rapid changes in activities or procedures. Unfortunately, regardless of your occupation, a power outage, unpleasant clients, or changed corporate goals can interrupt your regular work.

Consider What Is Expected Of You.

Take actions to improve the predictability of your workplace. Before you accept new employment, begin by requesting a full list of job tasks. For instance, if you work in a library, request detailed instructions on how to organize and reshelve returned books. If you understand the deliverables and expectations, you will face fewer surprises on the job. Also, request that your employer provide you with as much notice as possible for anticipated schedule and process changes.

Tip 6: Handle Setbacks At Work

Despite your best efforts, you will inevitably encounter setbacks at work. Here are some frequent hurdles and strategies for overcoming them:

Discrimination

Autism-related discrimination happens when employers, bosses, or coworkers regard you less favorably. Some instances include:

  • Your hours are reduced or you are fired because of your ASD.
  • You’re refused benefits or paid less because you’re autistic.
  • Coworkers annoy you at work.
  • Because of your ASD, you have been overlooked for promotion.

The appropriate course of action depends on the problem’s severity and frequency. Consider discussing the matter with the individual or your employer first. Perhaps the discrimination was accidental, and the individual will apologize and agree to fix the issue. Note, however, that even accidental job discrimination is prohibited in the majority of jurisdictions.

Depending on your nation or state of residency, you may have a legal right to get reasonable accommodations to assist you in performing your job tasks. 

Unconsidered For Promotion

It may be disheartening for anybody to be overlooked for a promotion. It might erode your sense of self-worth and make you feel underappreciated at work. However, it is essential to maintain composure on the job. Take the time to write down or discuss your emotions with a buddy.

Request a meeting with your manager once you’ve regained composure. Request comments, including suggestions for improvement. Using this input, devise actions you may do to improve your work performance. For instance, you may need to participate in more brainstorming meetings or produce more work.

Having Trouble Fitting In

If you feel as though you don’t quite fit in at work, you may need to make a little additional effort to establish friends. Find common ground with the others around you. This can enhance the pace and enjoyment of a discussion.

What is shared ground? Consider your interests, favorite television series, games, and travel experiences. You may also discuss your job but avoid dwelling excessively on any unfavorable elements.

Chronic Stress

No matter what sort of employment you choose, you will have both good and terrible days. However, if daily stress causes you to feel dissatisfied and overwhelmed, you should take precautions to protect your mental health.

Although seeking new work is always a possibility, you can first attempt the following:

  • If the stress is caused by a social or environmental factor, such as loud sounds or diversions, request more accommodations from your management.
  • If the source of your stress is your existing job obligations, speak with your boss about lowering some of your daily responsibilities. Be forthright and sincere in your explanations. And specify which responsibilities appear the most daunting.
  • Ask the management if you may switch to part-time hours or work from home on certain days if the stress is attributable to external circumstances.

Tips For Employers

There are a number of actions a company may take to make the workplace more accommodating for an employee with autism. The first step is to prevent these frequent misunderstandings about autistic people:

Misconceptions Concerning Autistic Workers

Misconception: Autistic employees are unemotional.

-Some individuals with ASD may have difficulty expressing their feelings. However, they experience the same spectrum of emotions as the rest of the population, including anxiety, rage, and happiness.

Misconception: All autistic employees are uncomfortable in social circumstances.

-Some individuals with ASD have trouble talking or communicating in ways that are foreign to neurotypical individuals. However, this is not always the case. You may possibly already employ individuals with undiagnosed or unreported autism.

Misconception: All employees with ASD possess exceptional expertise in a certain field.

-You may encounter autistic individuals who are very informed or accomplished in fields such as art or mathematics. 10 to 30 percent of autistic persons exhibit savant capabilities, or remarkable aptitude in a particular sector, according to research. However, similar to neurotypical individuals, each autistic person has a unique blend of skills and shortcomings.

Identifying And Utilizing Employee Skills

You must recognize the talents of autistic personnel, which may exceed those of your neurotypical employees. Again, each individual is unique, but some autistic individuals succeed in crucial areas such as tenacity, loyalty, and honesty. Others are incredibly detail-oriented or inventive thinkers who may provide novel solutions for your organization. Some have a great recall or strong concentration, which makes them well-suited for technical work like coding.

If you believe that an autistic employee would be better suited for a new function, you should propose a role change. For instance, you may discover that an employee is too nervous to participate in brainstorming meetings, yet excels at jobs requiring prolonged concentration.

Making Adjustments

Autism spectrum disorder employees have plenty to offer your firm. However, as an employer, you should be prepared to offer reasonable concessions.

Physical Adjustments

Examples of physical accommodations for autism include:

  • Utilizing headphones to muffle irritating noises.
  • Individual meetings to alleviate social anxiety and eliminate distractions.
  • use visual tools such as flowcharts.
  • Workstations near windows or low illumination for people with light sensitivity.
  • To eliminate distracting odors, locate your desk away from kitchens and break areas.
  • Written step-by-step instructions for those with memory impairments.
  • You may even conclude that allowing an employee to work remotely is optimal if it increases their productivity and comfort. Periodically inquire with the employee whether there is anything you can do to improve their work environment.

Work Culture Accommodations

Workplace accommodations for autism extend beyond only modifying the physical workstation. You would want to cultivate a workplace that places a premium on adaptability and patience while showing zero tolerance for harassment.

If you are experiencing problems implementing these adjustments on your own, you might seek out ASD-specialized support services. You may be able to hire on-site job coaches to advise you on how to help the employee and provide mentoring.

Whether or not you use external job coaches, you should have conversations with all of your employees about respecting one another and welcoming diverse opinions. Set the standard by demonstrating prosocial conduct yourself. By doing so, you will create an environment where neurodiversity may flourish, as well as an organization that benefits from a variety of abilities and perspectives.

We have a wonderful piece on workplace bullying, give it a read also.