When it comes to Autism and Employment, Australian businesses are still clueless and I’m exhausted having to explain the benefits
In Australia as of 2017 according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics the unemployment rate for people with Autism was 31.6%.
Let that sink in.
31.6% of businesses are missing out on employing someone with Autism.
So you have Autism and you want to work but what’s the next step in ensuring that you A) can find a suitable job that matches your skills and experience and
B) Being able to keep said job once you have found it.
Here then is a short list of what those benefits are
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
High Level of concentration and focus
Reliability and dependency
Attention to detail and accuracy
Technical abilities, such as coding and programming
Factual knowledge and excellent memory
Intense focus comes naturally. Intensity can be an asset that helps them focus on the task at hand.
They work when nobody is watching. Focus and commitment can make an Autistic individual a model employee.
Individuals with Autism can bring enormous creativity.
Autistic minds are wired differently, and imaginations can be extreme. Managers should take advantage of this when looking for creative ideas or new ways to solve problems. If they give Autistic team members opportunities to share their ideas, those ideas can lead to brilliant new concepts.
Passion leads to productivity.
Because individuals with Autism usually have intense, specific interests, the best jobs are those that allow them to be involved with those interests.
An employee who is perfectly suited to a position because of a passion results in a win-win situation. Not only should employers be aware of their employees’ strengths, they should also learn about some of their challenges, and how to accommodate them for better productivity.
Ok so what tips and hints can I give you in order to make life easier for you and your Autism?
Clarify expectations of the job. You may need to be more explicit about your expectations for an Autistic member of staff. As well as the job description, you will need to explain the etiquette and unwritten rules of the workplace.
Provide training and monitoring. Clear and structured training is invaluable. This can be provided informally on the job, by a manager, colleagues or a mentor.
Make sure instructions are concise and specific. Try to give your employee clear instructions right from the start about exactly how to carry out each task, from start to finish, as this will lay the foundations for good working practices.
Don’t assume the person will infer your meaning from informal instructions – for example, rather than saying ‘Give everybody a copy of this’, say
‘Can you please make three photocopies of this, and then give one each to Mark, Tim and Andy for me thanks’.
You may also choose to provide them with written instructions.
It can be helpful to ask the person to repeat back instructions so you are sure they have understood.
Ensure the work environment is well-structured. Some Autistic people need a fairly structured work environment.
You can help by working with them to prioritise activities, organising tasks into a timetable for daily, weekly and monthly activities, and breaking down the larger tasks into small steps.
Some people will appreciate precise information about start and finish times, and help getting into a routine with breaks and lunches.
Regularly review performance. As with any employee, line managers should have regular one-to-one meetings with the person to discuss and review performance and give overall comments and suggestions.
For an Autistic staff member, brief, frequent reviews may be better than longer sessions at less frequent intervals.
Provide sensitive but direct feedback. Autistic people often find it difficult to pick up on social cues, so make sure your feedback is honest, constructive and consistent.
If they complete a task incorrectly, don’t allude to, or imply, any problems – instead, explain tactfully but clearly why it is wrong, check that they have understood, and set out exactly what they should do instead.
Be aware that they may have low self-esteem or experience of being bullied, so ensure that any criticism is sensitive, and give positive feedback wherever appropriate.
Provide reassurance in stressful situations. Autistic people can be quite meticulous, and can become anxious if their performance is not perfect.
You can help by giving concrete solutions to these situations – for example, by explaining
“If the photocopier breaks, there is one that you can use which is on the third floor.”
Your employee may benefit from having a mentor or buddy in the workplace – an empathetic colleague who they can go to if they are feeling stressed, anxious or confused.
Support your staff member to prepare for changes. Give information about changes to the workplace or tasks well in advance.
Ask about sensory distractions. Autistic employees sometimes benefit from things like screens around their desk, noise-cancelling headphones, or their desk being in the corner.
Help other staff to be more aware. If your Autistic employee consents to their condition being disclosed, then providing colleagues with information and guidance on Autism can benefit everyone. Sometimes the employee may find it helpful to write a document for other staff explaining what their colleagues can do to support them. You could consider staff training.
WORK PLACE TRAINING
Aspect Capable offers workplace training and professional coaching and workplace assessments for employers. Our training will give you the opportunity to:
Increase understanding of Autism and its impact on someone in the workplace;
Increase understanding of positive attributes and contributions to the workplace;
Receive guidance on best practices for recruiting candidates;
Increase confidence in managing an employee on the spectrum;
Discuss current issues or concerns relating to an employee on the spectrum;
Learn how to design and implement appropriate management strategies.
The only downside to this is that these work place training workshops take place in Sydney, Melbourne and regional NSW.
Unfortunately, this was the only workshop I could find in Australia that was offering this type of service given that 31.6% are out of work.
Now this number could have increased within a year but no up to date data was available at the time that this blog was posted.
Not to get on my high horse here but I will, this is a joke.
How can only one sole organisation offer this type of service?
So here it is a handy guide wrapped within a rant about the lack of training which companies need in order to employ the 31.6% of us who have the necessary skills and attributes to contribute to the work force but are constantly having barriers put up and when companies do that we have to kick them down because 31.6% of us deserve to be employed.
To quote the Disability Act of 1992
“The Federal Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (D.D.A.) provides protection for everyone in Australia against discrimination based on disability. It encourages everyone to be involved in implementing the Act and to share in the overall benefits to the community and the economy that flow from participation by the widest range of people.”
“Disability discrimination happens when people with a disability are treated less fairly than people without a disability. Disability discrimination also occurs when people are treated less fairly because they are relatives, friends, carers, co-workers or associates of a person with a disability.”
If you are experiencing discrimination based on your disability then you can contact your local equal opportunity commission here:
AntiDiscrimination Board NSW http://www.antidiscrimination.justice.nsw.gov.au/
AntiDiscrimination Commission Queensland http://www.adcq.qld.gov.au/pubs/impairment.html
Northern Territory AntiDiscrimination Commission http://www.adc.nt.gov.au/
South Australia Equal Opportunity Commission https://eoc.sa.gov.au/about-us
Tasmania AntiDiscrimination Commmissioner https://equalopportunity.tas.gov.au/html_version/disability_discrimination
Victorian Equal Opportunity Commission https://www.humanrightscommission.vic.gov.au/
Western Australia Equal Opportunity Commission http://www.eoc.wa.gov.au/
Carry on the Conversation
Are you currently unemployed?
Have you found a job?
Has it been a positive experience for you?
Are you with a DES agency what are they like?
Are they any good?
Let me know in the comments below.
As always, I can also be found on Twitter: @AutisticNick9 and at my email firstname.lastname@example.org
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Thank you for reading and I will see you next time for more thoughts from across the spectrum.