Employment expert explains what adaptations employers should make for employees with autism
Companies like SAP and Microsoft have recently made a committed effort to start hiring employees who fall on the autism spectrum. This is timely, as more people than ever are being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Although varying in degree, individuals with ASD can require several modifications to the workplace. However, 80 percent of people with autism struggle to find employment, likely because employers are not well-versed in this condition and how to manage it in the workplace.
Rob Wilson, President of Employco USA says, “It’s important to become educated about these conditions and to realize that some people genuinely do need to have modifications made to their workplaces to be successful at their duties. Just as we do not hesitate to make handicap-accessible restrooms, we should similarly be willing to work with those who have developmental disorders.”
Wilson says that hiring staff with ASD can be incredibly beneficial for your company. “Experts theorize that if great thinkers like Einstein and Newton were alive today, they would be diagnosed with ASD. No wonder corporations like Microsoft and Walgreens are going out of their way to seek job candidates with autism. These firms realize that autism has amazingly powerful advantages: People with autism tend to be highly intelligent and highly focused workers, along with loyal employees,” he says.
Here, Wilson outlines steps that companies should take to make their workplaces ASD-friendly:
- Make small changes to the office environment. “Switching out bright, grating florescent lights and opting for energy-friendly, warm LED lights can go a long way in helping individuals with ASD or SPD. Similarly, loud or disruptive music played over the speakers can be silenced, or replaced by instrumental music.”
- Have a ‘quiet’ space. “A designated quiet place where employees can retreat during the day can do wonders for mental health, especially those with developmental disorders. Make the room dark and quiet, and have a sign-in sheet that will allow employees to use the room for short breaks. This safe place will be an invaluable refuge for those with ASD and other conditions.”
- Be careful when changing company routines. “If you know that one of your employees has ASD, be aware that changes in their daily life can be very upsetting to them. Something as simple as moving their desk an inch to the right, or asking them to change their lunch break can be overwhelming. To that end, give your employee plenty of warning time before making any big changes. This will help to ensure workflow continues without disruption or undue upset.”
- Troubleshoot solutions with your employee. “Every individual with ASD has differing needs and concerns. Talk to your employee about how you can make their work life more comfortable and productive. Perhaps they would work better if they could wear ear plugs, or if the bright overhead light was turned down.”
- Educate your employees. “It is important that people understand that jokes or rude comments will not be tolerated, and that such behavior will be viewed as discrimination. Instead, encourage inclusivity—while honoring your employee’s privacy, of course, as they may not want their diagnosis made public.”
For more on this topic, please contact Rob Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.