8 Tips For Employers Who Manage
Employees On The Spectrum
Individuals of all ages on the Autism Spectrum have been fighting for job opportunities for decades. According to The Guardian, "32% of adults on the spectrum don't have any work at all, compared to 47% of disabled adults and 80% of non-disabled adults". This is because "60% of employers said they worry about getting support for an Autistic employee wrong, and an equal number say they do not know where to go for advice."
If you are one of the six out of ten employers who don't know what to do,
we have some advice for you. As two young, successful entrepreneurs, one of whom is on the Autism spectrum, we created a list of tips to help employers who employ people on the spectrum.
1. Allow A Flexible Structure
A flexible structure creates more freedom for employees on the spectrum. This level of freedom prevents stress from a restrictive structure which can cause some to panic or feel overwhelmed. This flexible schedule will also give more time for people on the spectrum to foster creative ideas that can grow the company. Working for too long without any breaks will also chip away at productivity.
2. Create Some Sort Of Quiet Space
Many adults with Autism are introverts and independent workers. Having a designated working space will provide comfort to your employee on the spectrum and allow them to work without distractions. Also, many Autistic individuals have sensory issues and are bothered by flashing lights, too many noises, crowds, and strong smells which can be avoided with a separate, quiet workspace.
3. Designate A Mentor
People on the spectrum are different from people not on the spectrum, but they can provide valuable insights and work that can move your company forward. Designating a mentor for people on the spectrum who understands how they are different will allow you to hone in on their unique strengths. Mentors have proven valuable for any person in any walk of life as they have ideally taken the path that you are currently walking on.
4. Substitute Written Reports Instead Of Oral Presentations
There are many people on the spectrum who are uncomfortable with public speaking due to issues with verbal communication. They think much more rapidly and creatively than they can get their brains to produce complex and meaningful oral sentences. If an Autistic employee needs to make a presentation, allow him/her to write a report instead of making a verbal presentation. This not only is an acceptable compromise, but it leads to more productivity from an Autistic employee.
5. Provide A Written Timeline Of When Tasks Are Due
Autistic employees are more than capable of performing in various roles within a company. However, they need a clear roadmap of what is expected of them. They don’t like uncertainty and want to make sure they know deadlines. By providing this timeline in advance, you can help employees on the spectrum perform at a higher level. This written timeline also identifies the responsibilities and deadlines easy for both sides which provides clarity.
6. Be Careful With How You Communicate
Many people on the spectrum don't understand sarcasm or popular sayings. Things are taken very literally. When talking to an employee with Autism, be concrete and specific. For example, common idioms used in business settings such as “read between the lines”, “cutting corners”, “back to square one”, “cut our losses”, “corner the market”, “take the bull by the horns” and “see the writing on the wall” will likely not be understood by people with Autism and will lead to them looking for squares, scissors to cut corners with, graffiti, and corner markets!
7. Give Direct And Constructive Feedback
Just like anyone else, employees on the spectrum will benefit greatly from direct and constructive feedback. Revealing their weaknesses while acknowledging their strengths will create a higher quality feedback process. During this process, understand that eye contact is difficult for some autistic employees, so when you initiate these conversations, understand that the employee is listening to you even if he/she is not looking at you.
8. Allow Additional Time For Task Completion
Many with Autism take a longer time to complete projects. This is because it is sometimes harder for them to fully comprehend material. Also, individuals with Autism are very detail oriented and don’t want to turn an assignment in until it is done to their satisfaction. By assigning a task to employees on the spectrum earlier than you might otherwise, or limiting the number of other projects they work on, you will more likely ensure a calm employee, a positive working environment, and a thoroughly completed project.
About The Authors:
Ethan Hirschberg is a teenage entrepreneur. He was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism at age two. One of Ethan’s hyper focuses is business and he has therefore been involved in business since age ten. Ethan is the founder/blogger of The Journey Through Autism, where he shares his personal experiences, insight, and advice to individuals on the spectrum, parents, caregivers, educators, and providers. Check out his blog by clicking here!
Marc Guberti is also a teenage entrepreneur. He started blogging at age eleven. Marc is the founder/blogger of his own digital marketing and entrepreneurship blog where he shares his experiences as well as valuable insight to young entrepreneurs and veteran business owners alike. He has authored multiple books on these subjects. Check out his blog by clicking here!