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Over 3.5 million people in America are on the autistic spectrum yet only 19.3 percent of people with disabilities were working or actively seeking work as of 2014. Why do autistic people to appear to make up such a small amount of the workforce? Employers can help to change this by becoming more open to diversity and learning more about the support they can provide, both from HR but also across the entire working environment.
Challenges for Autistic Employees
The workplace can be stressful at times but everyday social interactions, ‘office politics’ and even the environment can be extremely overwhelming for those on the spectrum. Relationships may suffer due to misunderstandings or miscommunications and the environment may be too noisy or crowded which can be difficult due to sensory issues. Autistic employees may face harassment, bullying, or may be seen as ‘different’ which can be very upsetting. What can employers do to make the workplace more accessible?
Adapting the Environment
An autistic employee may struggle to cope in certain environments. The workplace can change very quickly which can alter an employee’s routine causing a great deal of stress to those with autism. Sensory issues can mean a person is sensitive to too many people, bright lights or even an overload of information. This can lead to challenging behavior but can be avoided by providing employees with reasonable adjustments according to what they are finding stressful or uncomfortable.
Many people associate autistic people with enhanced abilities so imagine what a person with this potential talent and skill could do for an employer? A survey showed that 85 percent of employers agreed that diversifying a workforce is essential for global success. However, if an employee on the autistic spectrum is unclear of their objectives, is loaded with work they find challenging or they are unsure how to prioritize, then consequently their talents may become hidden. To get the best out of an employee with autism, employers should be ready to provide clear training, a support network, tools for time management and the opportunity to share workloads.
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Learning more about autism can help employers and staff understand potential colleagues on the spectrum. Providing people with the information they need can help their colleague to feel more settled and accepted. It can also enhance their working capabilities and allow them to achieve more than they perhaps thought they would be able to. Access to support should also be readily available.
Employers can benefit enormously from having autistic people as their employees. Those on the spectrum are often very talented workers with tremendous skills and focus in varying subject areas. Providing the correct level of support can ensure employers get the best performance out of staff members with autism.