We’ve talked about how communication challenges can affect employment, how appearance can affect employment, now let’s discuss time. First, there are the written rules about time. Employers and coworkers expect everyone to arrive and be ready to start working at a specific time and to leave around a specific time, with a specific amount of time allotted for lunch. Easy enough to follow and understand… if you have an awareness of time. However, for people with ASD the passing of time can be a difficult concept to grasp. When completely focused on a task, time can just slip by.
Once arriving at work a lack of awareness of passing time can inhibit relationships with coworkers and employers. In general, people enjoy the company of others who value their time. Often work projects involve estimating the time it will take for you to complete a task, and then holding you to that estimate. An awareness of the passing of time is needed when discussing a work project, at a meeting, or even chatting. Coworkers may avoid speaking with someone who talks with no regard for their time, resulting in misunderstandings and difficulties completing assigned work.
Another individual that has autism or Asperger’s may be less impacted by time awareness, but more rule-bound. As a result, this person may strictly adhere to the work policy regarding departure and lunch, despite what coworkers are doing. Strict adherence to a lunchtime may cause the individual to miss out on team time, reducing the opportunities to create relationships and bond with the group. Strict adherence to departure time may result in never staying late to finish a project. Even though this individual is always on time, the team may resent the lack of camaraderie and extra effort. The nuances in recognizing when to stay late can be difficult for a person with ASD.
Awareness of time is an executive functioning skill that will need to be taught and practiced. It is worth it to put a little bit of effort in, as these same individuals will approach their tasks and projects with incredible attention to detail and provide insights unavailable from their neuro-typical peers. Although people with Autism and Asperger’s may miss out on some of the team bonding (if they are not given explicit directions to attend gatherings) they will be some of the most dedicated employees.
lecture by Timothy P. Kowalski M.A, C.C.C.
Rebecca J. Weaver is a Certified Autism Specialist at Independent with Autism, working to empower individuals with ASD. Need help creating positive strategies for employment? Check out IndependentwithAutism.com for more information.