OK, this is my last blog on what’s keeping people with ASD out of the workplace. In the past 3 articles, I’ve emphasized the challenges people with Autism and Asperger’s face in employment. Although I dislike discussing these negative aspects, it is important to bring them to light so that we know what to address in order to be more successful.
To recap, in previous articles (see our blog for more) we’ve talked about how communication challenges, appearance and time awareness can affect employment. Now let’s address two mental skills: flexibility and being proactive.
In the workplace, a project or task can end or change at a moment’s notice. Being able to go with a necessary change rather than fight it is an important skill. People that have ASD tend to prefer to finish tasks before moving on and stopping in the middle can be quite a challenge. Another area where flexibility is needed is during planning or creative meetings. All team members have the opportunity to offer their ideas. Throughout the process, things can change often and quickly. It’s challenging for anyone to listen to the flood of ideas, after all, we all think our idea is the best one.
Being proactive is an expectation in the workplace that isn’t clearly expressed. There are rules. When being proactive, a person makes an educated guess and follows that course of action. If the guess is correct the employee is rewarded in some manner. At the very least, the boss notices and appreciates the take-charge attitude. However, if the guess is wrong the employee may be asked to check in with someone before moving on to the next step in the future. Since people with Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism have a tendency towards perfectionism they dislike guessing in general. Also, if they have taken the initiative and made a mistake that employee is unlikely to try again. The memory of the mistake will discourage moving ahead without direct approval. Unfortunately, this behavior can keep an employee from moving up in the company or even maintain employment.
Note to Employers: These challenges are relatively simple to address. If a project/ task is being considered for change or is ending, consider letting your employee with Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism know at that time, and give them a date to hear a final answer. This will allow the employee with ASD to transition more smoothly. Also, give your employee your expectations on how much time to be spending on this project while it is being considered. Again, this will ease the transition and allow your autistic or aspie employee to be more productive. When it comes to brainstorming sessions make the expectations known. If your employee with ASD understands everyone gets a chance to speak, that employee will make sure everyone gets a turn. An environment where employees with ASD are encouraged often to be proactive and flexible is one where everyone is likely to succeed. Employees will be more willing to take risks and increase their independence.
There you have it. The challenges can be addressed with a little instruction and understanding. The rewards of hiring people with ASD include dedication, diverse thinking, and attention to detail. So let’s give it a try! What benefits will you discover from your employee?
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.