Temple Grandin, a renowned professor of animal science at Colorado State University, said “the world needs all kinds of minds” in her Ted Talk back in 2013. Ms. Grandin, like many others across the United States, lives with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which is previously known as autism. The disorder is difficult to characterize because individual cases vary greatly. Some common behaviors of ASD include social awkwardness, sensitivity to external stimuli and repeated actions or body motions.
Despite what you may hear, the disorder is not always debilitating. In fact, some people on the spectrum have heightened levels of intelligence and abilities. Some of the world’s most brilliant and respected individuals like Bill Gates, Tim Burton, Susan Boyle, and Albert Einstein all have ASD. Unfortunately, most people on the spectrum have a hard time finding jobs. According to Market Watch, nearly 85% of college graduates with ASD are unemployed, and it’s not because they lack ability. The interview process and social nuances of the modern workplace can be a nightmare for some with ASD, which makes it harder for them to find or keep a job despite their versatile talents.
Why the workplace can be stressful for people with ASD
People with Autism can find the outside world overstimulating – and offices are full of overwhelming stimuli. Many workplaces can be noisy; whether it’s the ringing of a phone, the clicking of a computer keyboard or office chitchat, they find this environment to be quite intense. Some on the spectrum also dislike the nuanced dialogue spoken at the office. Most prefer when communication is straightforward and get very anxious when they don’t understand a boss or co-worker’s instructions or intentions.
Helping employees with Autism succeed in the workplace
While workplace accommodations cannot cause undue hardship for the employer or decrease the quality or production of services, workplace adjustments for those on the spectrum can be simple and affordable. These are a specific few that could help:
- Allowing them to work in a quiet space with limited external noise.
- Give them the option to work from home.
- Be more direct with your communication when addressing conflicts or requests.
- Give them noise-canceling headphones.
- Give more written than verbal instructions when possible.
- Make sure the instructions are very detailed.
- Judge candidates with autism on skill rather than social interaction.
- Give them projects that fit their strengths.
- Don’t judge them negatively if they don’t want to go to happy hour or other social events.
Many programs help neurodivergent employees thrive
Many companies like Microsoft, JP Morgan, Freddie Mac, and AMC already offer programs specifically catering to workers with ASD. Those on the spectrum can deliver a wealth of innovation and creativity to your organization if given the proper environment for success. If you have questions regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act and ASD job placement programs, an attorney with an employment law background can help businesses understand your legal rights and responsibilities in the accommodations process.