How to support an autistic person

How to support an autistic person

Welcome to the Incluzy jobs working with autism guide. This is one of a number of quick guides for disability employment jobs. In this blog, we are particularly focusing on the autism.

There are several professions that support people with autism. The top four are applied behavior analysts, occupational therapists, special education teachers, and speech-language pathologists. These jobs cover a wide range of resources for people with autism and generally made a positive impact.

I. Applied Behavior Analysts

Applied behavior analysts are popular jobs in regards to working with people with Autism. An applied behavioral analyst (ABA) understands the behavior and reactions to the surrounding environment. In the 1960s, applied behavior analysts began its place in the workforce with research targeted mostly towards adults. As time has progressed, ABA have expanded their research to all age groups. The research conducted enables us to learn more about ways to assist and support the learning styles of people with Autism.

This profession has developed various techniques and strategies targeted towards various needs and spectrums of Autism. These analysts have facilitated programs that have been proven to help people with autism in various ways: learning, communicating, reading, and adaptability.
Over the years, it is evident that applied behavior analysts have made a positive impact and are beneficial for people with Autism. However, it is important to remember that every child is different and this resource does not help everyone.

II. Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists are also another favorable profession in the workforce of working with people with Autism. In this profession, occupational therapists strive to help their patients develop skill sets and become functional in various settings.

As an occupational therapist, these employees work to lessen difficulties for people with Autism. In doing so, occupational analysts help people with Autism’s nervous systems, which tend to struggle “filtering” out unnecessary information. This information that requires “filtering” is a cause of the challenges and breakdowns a person with Autism’s faces. During sessions, occupation therapists focus on a variety of activities. These activities involve both ways to positively impact sensory and cogitative abilities.

In the sessions, it is common for occupational therapists to begin with sensory activities; it enables their patients to become alert and focused for the rest of the session. It has become evident that occupational therapy is beneficial for their patients with autism. These sessions improve communication, motor skills, interactions, as well as decrease anxiety. Overall, occupation therapists help patients overcome challenges as well as improve their self-esteem.

III. Special Needs Teachers

Special needs teachers are the third more popular job involving working with people who have autism. They differ from the “normal” teacher, because the work directly with students who need additional support and face learning or physical disabilities. These teachers carry the responsibility of classroom in addition to carrying for the individual needs of each student who learns at a different pace than others.

Special needs teachers must adjust their courses, when need be, to suit the needs of their students in order to ensure a positive outcome. In particular, it is essential to be organized and adaptable to all behaviors. There are several qualification for this profession, including teaching qualifications. It is a specialized profession that benefits children with special needs tremendously. People with autism have been proven to find this specialized field essential and provides an overall positive response.

IV. Speech-Pathologists

Speech-language pathologists working with patients who are autistic tend to focus sessions on treating various impairments. These impairments tend to effect speech, semantics, and pragmatics. People with autism tend to struggle most with communication and language.
Despite the age and level of severity, speech pathologists work closely with their patients to treat these problems. In particular, people with autism have a high likelihood of having social and communication difficulties. If a patient is unable to communication, speech-language pathologists are trained and able to identify different forms of communication. This profession requires at least a Masters degree.

Speech-language pathologists are highly trained and the outcome of these sessions are shown to be beneficial. Though they specialize in speech, the patients benefits are also found in improving social interactions. Speech-language pathologists support their patients with autism besides helping them learn to speech. Speech-language pathologists specialize in helping their patients carry conversations, understanding cues (verbal and non-verbal), and how to generally interact with others. Once a person is diagnosed with autism, it is important to meet with a speech pathologist shortly after.

The speech-language pathologist will provide helpful next steps for the family, all the while helping improve communication and quality of life. Through various techniques and sessions, patients with autism have found speech-language pathologists extremely helpful with an effective outcome.

Overall, there are various professions that use different techniques to help improve the quality of life for people with Autism. Though these careers require patients, a good attitude, and a little extra work, the outcome is extremely rewarding and directly impact people with autism in a positive way.

Thank you for reading this blog. If you have any questions, please contact Incluzy. We encourage you to check out our disabilities job support.

The world can be a wild and crazy place. There are so many things happening all at the same time in your home including: phones ringing, conversations, televisions and tablets running in the background, food cooking, music playing, and the list goes on and on. Not everyone is a multi-tasker, yet in terms of focusing on tasks, we tend to ask so much of our children…this just may not be realistic or reasonable.

Try these strategies to help your child focus and pay attention to specific tasks:

  1. Turn off any distractions around him. Make sure that the television or any music is not playing in the background. Many families find comfort with the TV running all day long. Even if it is muted, the lights and even the slightest white noise can distract your child. If he has sensory challenges (which most kids with autism have), then he may even hear the TV from the other room at the same volume as your voice which is right next to him.
  2. Get rid of any scented plug-ins, perfumes, or candles. Smells can be very distracting for your child. If he is trying to focus on a task, and there is a smelly plug-in in the same room, he may not be able to think of anything but that scent.
  3. Be aware of the lighting in the room. Sunlight, and light from lamps and fluorescents can play tricks on your child’s eyes. If your child needs to focus on a task such as homework, do not put him under these lights. Minimize distractions by seating him away from a window.
  4. Make sure you have your child’s attention before talking to him. Say his name, tap him on the shoulder, and/or get on his eye-level. You can even ask, “Johnny, are you listening to me?” Make sure you get a response before talking to him. Many kids with autism do not respond to their name. It’s possible that he is hearing something else at the same volume as your voice. There are so many distractions around him, so be sure you have his attention before making any demands.
  5. Incorporate movement and exercise into his day. By encouraging your child to move around, especially before an in-seat task, you are respecting his needs. All children need movement to help them focus, but your child with autism needs it even more. Encourage exercises like jumping jacks, bouncing on a trampoline, running in place, push-ups, sit-ups, and just dancing to music. Then, request that your child sit down to focus on a task.

By trying these 5 strategies, you are setting your child up for success so that he can focus and pay attention to specific tasks.

Please share with us, what does your child have the most difficult time focusing on at home?

August 4, 2020
Published in: Mental Health, Primary Care

How to support an autistic person

Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disorder, and according to the latest Center for Disease Control research, 1 in 59 children in the United States (a 15% increase) are diagnosed with autism. Autism is also four times more common in boys than girls. It’s challenging to acquire exact statistics about autism in children because many adults not diagnosed with autism in early childhood go undiagnosed into adulthood. It’s estimated that there are about 3.5 million Americans living with a type of autism, but all ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic groups worldwide are impacted.

Given these statistics, there’s a high likelihood that you know someone that has autism or a family that is caring for someone with autism. Autism is a complex condition with a variety of signs, symptoms, and severity levels. Currently, there is no blood test or cure for autism, so early detection and intervention with treatment and services are key to improve a persons development and functionality for a lifetime. Given the prevalence and complexity of autism, it’s important to be aware of ways you can support people that dealing with the condition.

Knowledge is Power

By educating yourself about autism, you are better prepared to recognize the signs and feel more confident when interacting with someone with autism. Autism is a Spectrum Disorder (ASD), meaning there are many variations as to how high or low functioning a person is developmentally and intellectually. Many people depending on where they are on the autism spectrum, live as high functioning adults. The signs and symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder may be hard to recognize in a high functioning person, whereas low functioning signs and symptoms are more recognizable.

Common Autism Spectrum Disorder Signs:

  • Communication difficulty (verbal and nonverbal)
  • Social interaction difficulty
  • Has restricted interests
  • Has repetitive behaviors

People with Autism Spectrum Disorder can have many strengths as well.

Common strengths of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder include:

  • Remembers information for long periods of time
  • Able to learn things in detail
  • Strong visual and auditory learners
  • Excels in math, science, music or art

It’s important to remember, like with any condition or disease, that autism does not present itself the same way in every person.

Building Rapport

Autism presents itself in a variety of ways, and our interactions may vary depending on where the person is on the autism spectrum, but some common guidelines for building rapport do apply. First and foremost, like anyone you are communicating with, be respectful. Finding common ground for communicating is key and doing so may take time and patience with a low functioning autistic individual. In contrast, a high functioning autistic individual may be more literal in their communication. It’s also common for a person with autism to have less direct eye contact during conversation and to fixate on a particular topic during a conversation. Simple actions like a gentle redirection to the next topic can help move the conversation along. Whatever your interaction, be mindful that an autistic person’s communication style may be very different than ours. However, patience and finding common ground are ways to start building rapport.

Situational Awareness

Sensory issues are a common challenge for people with autism. If you are interacting with an autistic person knowing what these sensory issues are will be helpful to you. Some of the sensory challenges an autistic individual may experience are high sensitivity to touch, sound, light, taste, and smell. Avoiding large, crowded spaces, or bright colors can help create a soothing environment for a person with autism and avoid sensory overload.

Sometimes boundary issues like touching and closeness within personal space can occur because of a delay in understanding common social norms. This can be easily addressed by simply asking the person the step back or creating some distance between the two of you. Modeling social norms when communicating with a person with autism helps create a structured, positive environment.

Supporting Family or Friends That are Caregivers for a Person with Autism

Chances are you already know family or friends that are autism caregivers. Just like with other caregivers, one of the best ways to show support is to give them a break from their daily routine. Let your family and friends know that you want to support them as an autistic caregiver and discuss ways you can help the caregiver. Making meals, cleaning, yard work, and childcare are great ways to support a caregiver. Remember, even a small amount of support to a caregiver can go a long way.

Supporting a Co-Worker with Autism

Individuals with autism can add different perspectives and strengths into the workplace. An individual with autism can have challenges as well, such as anxiety, communication, time management, and/or staying focused. If an issue arises at work it’s important to show respect, patience, and compassion. Don’t hesitate to try and get to know the person better to gain a deeper understanding of their specific strengths and challenges. Remember, each individual’s experience with ACD is different.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is lifelong and impacts emotions, sensory experience, and social-interactions. As autism diagnosis rates continue to increase, it’s important that we educate ourselves about the disorder. In doing so, we’ll be better equipped to build relationships, understand sensory awareness, offer support to family and friends, and learn how to support autistic colleagues in the workplace.

By Katie Weisman, SafeMinds Board Member

How to support an autistic person

So, it’s Autism Awareness Month again. Hmmm….

Facebook is abuzz with posts about autism awareness. Buildings are lighting up in blue to show support for autism, while Twitter is chirping with the hashtags #autism and #awareness. There are hundreds of events around the country celebrating that more and more people know what autism is. Frankly, I think you’d have to be a hermit not to have heard of autism by now. The problem is that nobody seems concerned about how common autism has become.

I’m still waiting for the part where our government and the general public wake up and realize that what was considered a “rare disorder” when my boys were diagnosed 14 years ago, is now affecting children in every neighborhood in America.

Actually, in my neighborhood, counting my boys, there are eight kids on the spectrum. Eight children! And only one is high-functioning enough that you wouldn’t immediately know he’s on the spectrum. The general disregard for the increased numbers of people with autism baffles me. It is, as my son Don would say, an “Epic Fail! “

So even if we can’t get others interested in why there’s an increase in autism prevalence, I thought I should write the truth about what our families need, so that those who do care can really help. This is my list, but please add your thoughts in the comment section below and share this on social media so that other families affected by autism can chime in about what helps them the most. And make sure it gets to your friends and families so that our support networks are activated.

What does the family of someone significantly impacted by autism wish for?

1) Our children with autism need friends – There are no two ways about it. Our kids don’t have the friends that they need and deserve. As parents with children older than five or six, it is really uncomfortable for us to ask other parents for playdates, knowing that initially our kids will probably ignore your kids or may not have the attention to complete an activity. Our kids are kind, naïve, and often have great, if quirky, senses of humor. Can you please ask us to get together – and keep asking – and keep asking? Can you please invite our kids to parties or movies or whatever? It takes time for our kids to feel comfortable with others and this gets harder and harder as the kids get older. And once our kids age out of school at 21, they may lose what friends they had, as those friends go off to college – so please stay in touch!

2) Our older children with autism need employment – Stop and really think about this. Parents worry enough about what their typical kids will do to earn a living in a tough economy. Now imagine how scary it is to be the parent of a young adult with autism who is minimally verbal, obsesses about routines, and takes time to learn new skills. Finding even part-time employment is challenging. If you own a business, look for the jobs you need to fill that might work for someone on the spectrum and reach out to families. If you have a friend with a business, reach out and connect them to local parents. If you’re just looking for some help, hire our kids to walk your dog, or water your plants, or shovel your driveway. Our kids are reliable, can be extremely focused, and don’t engage in personal drama. You may find that they become your favorite employees. But you won’t know until you try.

3) Our children with autism need to learn new skills – Offer to be a mentor or teach someone with autism a skill. Many of our kids have personal strengths and specific interests and they learn best by seeing something done. Reach out to your local schools and agencies and offer your time and expertise. Maybe you are a train conductor or a meteorologist or you work with computers or you are a professional musician. Helping someone with autism get a start in a field that they love may be the most rewarding thing you’ve ever done.

4) Families affected by autism also need money and time – There may be local families you know who you suspect are struggling financially. You are probably right. Medical, educational, and recreational costs for children with autism can be overwhelming. Often, only one parent can work and the other has to either work less or give up their job to be available for their child’s needs. Single parents have kids with autism, too. Think about anonymously making a collection to fund something they need – food for a special diet, gas to visit the specialist three hours away, or extra help with homework. Offer to do something fun with the kids and give the parents a gift certificate for a local restaurant. A one-time gesture of kindness goes a long way. Or you could even help set up a regular recreation program in your town that provides volunteer support for people with disabilities. Many existing recreation programs are too expensive for families affected by autism to afford, or require the parents to drive their kids further than they can fit into their schedule. Or find a way to help provide transportation if a family doesn’t have the resources to access programs that are available.

5) Our kids and adults with autism need volunteer opportunities – Help find ways for people with autism to volunteer in your communities. It is a win-win for everyone. Many community groups always need more help and many people with autism need opportunities to be out and socialize with others. Whether it’s blowing up balloons for an event, planting flowers to beautify your town, working in a soup kitchen, or packing boxes for our troops, giving back to others is a wonderful way to gain self-confidence and build lasting friendships. Find ways to be truly inclusive by inviting people with autism to volunteer with you.

We’d like this to be an ongoing dialogue. Please share your thoughts, your children’s needs, your family’s needs, and any great ideas that have worked in your community.

I truly hope that someday there will be no need for Autism Awareness Month and that we can all just “be” – members of communities all supporting each other.

Katie Weisman is the mother of identical triplet boys who all have autism. After a career as a technical designer, she is now a full-time mom and autism advocate. All three of Katie’s sons have mercury poisoning, which she believes is the primary cause of their disability. She chairs the SafeMinds Government Affairs Committee and sits on the Research/Environmental Committee. She lives in Mount Kisco, New York with her husband, Doug, and her three wonderful sons.

How to Support Mental Health in People with Autism

A new study suggests that autistic individuals have higher levels of stress and depression when they don’t feel accepted.

Mental health among autistic individuals is an underdeveloped area of research—a situation that many autistic people are advocating to change. This is especially crucial since rates of depression and thoughts of suicide are higher among autistic people than in the general population.

But why would there be a stark difference in the mental health and well-being of autistic people compared to “neurotypical” people? A recent study, one of the few looking at this issue, set out to examine the importance of acceptance.

How to support an autistic person

One hundred eleven autistic individuals in the U.K. filled out online surveys about their levels of acceptance—from themselves and society—and their depression, anxiety, and stress. Authentic autism acceptance would imply “an individual feeling accepted or appreciated as an autistic person, with autism positively recognized and accepted by others and the self as an integral part of that individual,” the study explained.

How to support an autistic person

The results? As predicted, those who felt less accepted by others and by themselves showed higher levels of depression and stress.

When asked about societal acceptance, 43 percent of participants said they did not feel accepted by society in general, and 48 percent said they did not feel accepted sometimes.

In describing their experiences of not feeling accepted, respondents most often alluded to “misunderstandings and misconceptions about autism, experiences of masking/camouflaging,” and other issues, the study authors report. Masking and camouflaging refer to an autistic person making efforts to “pass” as neurotypical and the stress and exhaustion that result from that. It makes sense that feeling pressured to hide a part of yourself would result in higher stress and a tendency toward depression, given how critical social relationships and a sense of belonging are to well-being.

On the other hand, there was no significant link between autism acceptance and anxiety. The researchers postulate that anxiety can come from a host of sources for the autistic person; acceptance may not be as primary as, for example, the sensory sensitivities that can accompany autism.

So how can we support the mental health of autistic people?

According to the researchers, one factor that can contribute to acceptance is how we think about autism—in particular, whether we embrace the “neurodiversity” framework and a social model of disability, as opposed to a medical one. Neurodiversity is a way of conceptualizing mental differences as part of natural human diversity, as opposed to pathologizing some neurological makeups (such as autism) as abnormal. The social model of disability focuses on systemic factors within society that disadvantage particular people, whereas a medical model sees certain people as intrinsically, biologically disabled when they differ from a perceived norm.

The results of this study also indicate that we should pay greater attention to the stressful experience of “masking,” and ways that friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and family members can deepen their understanding of the autistic experience and help autistics feel seen for who they are.

A great place to start is to follow the #ActuallyAutistic hashtag on Twitter (an online social media movement whereby autistic voices are amplified with the slogan “nothing about us without us”), as well as the blog of autistic scholar and activist Nick Walker and my own The Neurodiversity Project. Learning about topics such as sensory sensitivities, heightened empathy (as opposed to lessened), and other unique autistic experiences can go a long way in understanding autistic people in our lives.

This particular study is noteworthy for surveying autistic individuals, as opposed to simply reporting professionals’ views of them. With greater self-acceptance and societal acceptance, autistic people may be able to foster a larger sense of belonging and agency, thereby reducing feelings of isolation, loneliness, and depression—all critical for mental health.

So it’s World Autism Awareness Month again!

Those who follow Autistic Not Weird’s Facebook page [links open in new tabs] will know that I often use the occasion to upload a ton of picture posts- not just to spread awareness but to encourage autism acceptance too.

This year, instead of uploading facts about autism like I have in the past, I started an album called “Fifty ways to help autistic people“. And, as promised, here they are in one big album outside of Facebook.

I’m keeping this intro short, because there’s fifty things in here to digest already. So without further ado, here we go!

(Because of copy-paste theft websites, I’ve had to disable right-clicking across Autistic Not Weird. If you want to share these, here’s the link to the full album on Facebook. Of course, sharing this article works just as well.)

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So that’s it for this year!

Oh wait, no it’s not. Autism (and more importantly, autistic people) exist for the rest of the year too, so I will be joining the wider autism community in advocating to improve the lives of autistic people wherever we can.

To those who want more, feel free to join us on Autistic Not Weird’s Facebook page. And since writing for Autistic Not Weird is now literally my job, take a look at what’s available on here’s my Patreon page for those we feel able to support my work (in exchange for some nice rewards).

Chris Bonnello / Captain Quirk

Underdogs, a near-future dystopia series where the heroes are teenagers with special needs, is a character-driven war story which pitches twelve people against an army of millions, balancing intense action with a deeply developed neurodiverse cast.

Book one can be found here:

Chris Bonnello is a national and international autism speaker, available to lead talks and training sessions from the perspective of an autistic former teacher. For further information please click here (opens in new window).

Autistic Not Weird on Facebook

How to support an autistic person

In celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Autism Speaks is sharing 12 steps to help young adults and adults with autism find employment. Below is adapted from Autism Speaks Employment Tool Kit, a guide to help people with autism research, find and keep employment in the current, competitive labor market. Stories, tips and resources were developed from a collaboration of people, including adults with autism, dedicated to increasing the employment participation of adults on the spectrum.

You can find more action steps in each section of the Autism Speaks Employment Tool Kit, but use this list as a summary to jump-start your job search process.

  1. Register on TheSpectrumCareers. This is a free website designed by and for job seekers with autism to connect with businesses that are looking to hire individuals on the spectrum. As of September 19, 2017, there are more than 200 companies from around the country who are posting open positions. Only answer a few questions about yourself, and you can begin searching for jobs right away!
    You can watch this video asAn Introduction for Job Seekersto see how the site works.
  2. Create a list of your strengths – write down your skills, what you do best and what you enjoy doing.
  3. Write a list describing what you see yourself doing in the future. Feel free to list your dream job, but also write down other jobs that you would be willing to do and ones that you may be interested in trying. Make note of which ones match up with your strengths.
  4. Write down the names of businesses that are accessible to you via public transportation, walking distance, etc.
  5. Speak with a Vocational Rehabilitation counselor about the supports that you can get – that may include help with writing a resume, job development and job coaching.
  6. Make a list of all of your contacts who could help you get a job. Your personal “network” is an important place to start – your family, friends, neighbors and other people who know you well.
  7. Consider joining social networking and job search websites to help you expand your contact list – check out LinkedIn, Facebook, CareerBuilder and others.
  8. Create/Update your resume. Make sure you include your name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address. Then list your education and training experiences. And then list your work history and experience. Make sure you include any non-paid work experiences too, such as internships and volunteer activities.
    There are tools on TheSpectrumCareers that will help you create a resume if you do not have one. Even better, we have tools that enable you to create a video resume – this allows you to show employers what you are capable of and who you really are!
  9. Write a cover letter. This will be used to introduce yourself to the people you hope will hire you. It should be concise – simply identify who you are and why you are applying for the job. It also should invite the employer to contact you for an interview. Make sure to include a copy of your resume with your cover letter.
  10. Fill out several job applications! This is often how the employment process begins, and it may be the first impression an employer has of you. You can do this very easily on TheSpectrumCareers. Or you can go to the actual job site to ask for an application – if so, make sure you wear clothes that are clean and ironed. Be polite and bring a pen and a copy of your resume with you.
  11. Practice your interviewing skills. Have a friend or support person ask you practice questions. Try to make this as realistic as possible (practice introducing yourself, shaking hands, making appropriate eye contact, and sit down across a desk from each other, etc.). Make sure you arrive at the interview location early (say, 15 minutes before the appointment). And remember to focus on your abilities, not your disabilities – tell them about your strengths, not your weaknesses!
  12. Consider taping your interviews so you can listen or watch later and learn from what you did well or where you might need improvement.

How to support an autistic person

‘How can I support an autistic colleague or employee?’ is a question which is often asked in the workplace. With the prevalence of autism standing at around 1.5% of the population, many workplaces will be employing people on the autism spectrum whether they have declared it or not.

I write this article as a neurotypical coach who has been supporting autistic people in the workplace as well as coaching their managers for the past decade.

There is no obligation on anyone with a diagnosis of autism to declare their diagnosis to their employer. However, if reasonable adjustments are required, then the diagnosis needs to be declared. With or without a diagnosis and with or without a declaration some managers and colleagues will observe behaviours – both qualities and challenges – which they might relate to an autism spectrum condition.

Without disclosure how can you support an autistic colleague or employee?

Therefore, the key to providing support is to address the behaviour, to support the individual in establishing what drives the behaviour and then together to establish strategies which will enable the strengths to come to the fore and will reduce the challenges. You can lead with “I noticed that …” and then you might ask “Is there something I can do to help?”

Some autistic people will be aware they are having difficulties; however, will not know how or why they are having these difficulties. In a coaching or mentoring role, as a colleague or as a manager, you can support them in exploring how some of their behaviours are impacting on others and you can help them to understand why that is.

Another key point to remember is that every autistic person is an individual and they will not fit within a stereotypical view of autism. Autistic people can be exceptional employees in all sorts of industries – technology, sciences, law, language, sociology, psychology, the arts and many, many more. They will bring swathes of strengths and qualities and they will be experiencing a wide range of challenges.

Asking some initial questions in an informal setting will provide important information in how you might be able to support your autistic colleague or employee.

How to support an autistic person

Questions to ask

The following questions can be asked in both informal and formal settings and can be asked in one sitting or over a period of time. Remember that you must not anticipate the answers. The answers will be as varied as for neurotypical people. Also remember that some autistic people need time to process information or to process questions before answering. Therefore, do not feel tempted to immediately fill a short silence. The questions you can consider asking are –

  • Do you have any special interests and, if so, what are they?
  • What strengths do you display through your special interests?
  • What other strengths are you aware of?
  • What thing distresses you most?
  • What situations do you find most challenging?
  • What physical environment do you find most challenging?
  • Which strategies help you when you are anxious?

The answers you receive to the above questions will provide you with some insight into why you are observing certain behaviours and will also provide you with some ideas as to reasonable adjustments that might help your autistic employee or colleague.

There are some strengths and challenges which are more prevalent in the general autistic population and these are offered below as a loose guide.

How to support an autistic person

Strengths and qualities

Some strengths and qualities you might observe are –

  • excellent memory
  • precision and attention to detail
  • focus
  • creativity
  • a preference for following instructions and abiding by rules
  • working on structured programmes
  • being direct, open and honest
  • copying and reproducing behavior (masking)
  • dealing with projects which have a clear beginning, middle and end
  • offering different perspectives
  • strong sense of fairness and justice

Strengths and qualities should be encouraged and promoted in the workplace. Praise and encouragement can be motivating and empowering. Some people on the autism spectrum find it hard to know what someone else is thinking. Therefore, praise needs to be clearly articulated.

Challenges

You might observe your colleague or employee displaying difficulties in –

  • picking up on unwritten social rules
  • engaging in small talk
  • taking things literally and misunderstanding jokes and sarcasm
  • imagining what someone else is thinking
  • understanding the complexities of inter-personal relationships
  • becoming obsessed with a person, place or interest
  • managing unexpected change
  • remembering things in sequence
  • making decisions
  • making plans
  • experiencing either hyper- or hypo- sensitivity (differences in the way they experience sensory input, either too much or too little)

Finding strategies and tools which can help to reduce the challenges means the strengths and qualities can be used more effectively in the workplace.

How to support an autistic person

Strategies and tools

Strategies and tools to support an autistic employee or colleague will be specific to each individual; however, some strategies for support which are helpful to autistic employees and would also benefit the other employees in an organisation are –

  • clear and unambiguous communication, eg “you will find it next door” – does this mean the room next door, the building next door or another next door?
  • agendas prior to meetings
  • diaries, schedules and reminders
  • clear rules, policies and procedures followed by all
  • prior notice of change where possible
  • a calm environment where possible – lower lighting, reduced sound, fewer people
  • provision of a quiet space to which a person can retreat

It is important to talk to your autistic colleague or employee to find out what would most help them. Asking the questions at the beginning of this article will give you a good start to build upon.

Coaching and training

In my experience the most successful interactions and working relationships are established when the autistic person is coached in understanding what the expectations of neurotypical people are and, alongside this, when the neurotypical people around them understand what autistic people expect.

Awareness, understanding and acceptance is a two-way street. It takes effort from both sides. It is not sufficient for an autistic person to receive coaching if the people they work with have no understanding of how they are experiencing the world. Equally, it is not enough for managers and teams to be trained in autism awareness if the autistic person does not understand the behaviour or expectations of neurotypical people.

Diversity brings a colorful richness to the workplace which benefits individuals, teams and organizations. An understanding of differences can lead to an acceptance of how different strengths can be brought together to complement each other and to form a balanced, resilient environment. Understanding people’s challenges can mean that support is directed in the most efficient and appropriate ways. This in turn benefits mental health and wellbeing in the workforce.