From an outside perspective, autism might be considered a challenge, but to many families it is actually considered a gift that many people don’t get the chance to experience. Being involved in the life of someone on the autism spectrum can gives you the opportunity to gain patience, understanding, and grow in your role as a parent, relative, friend. Autism not only gives us the opportunity to overcomes challenges, but also an insight into ourselves as individuals.
A strength-based approach is key to overcoming any challenge, but is particularly relevant to autism. As we experience different challenges each day, autism gives us a unique insight into problem solving. In addition to this, we become an emotional support and the focus of attention, often making a significant impact to the life of another individual. We have the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to someone’s life, an opportunity which is not given to everyone. Through autism we can gain a deep understanding of human interaction and emotions, something can be considered a gift to many.
What is it?
Autism is not an illness and those with autism can live a very full life. It simply means that people with autism think differently from those without it. Usually appearing in the first stages of life, a person with autism will remain autistic for their lifetime. Just like other people, autistic people have things they are great at, and still have the ability to make friends, get a job and have a good social life. They might need some extra help with these things, although autism is different for each individual with some people needing lots of support whereas others needing little to none.
How we could enhance the workplace
Autistic people can make incredibly reliable employees and can offer high attention to detail, strong research skills and heightened levels of concentration. With an increased understanding of what autism is and how best to manage an autistic employee, workers with autism will be better supported in their working environment and more autistic people will be encouraged to work.
How employers can support us at work
There are different ways in which we can support an autistic employee in the workplace. Workers with autism tend to work best when given clear, direct instructions so that they understand what is expected of them in their role. An employer can support this by breaking down tasks into smaller steps and by writing instructions down. Giving clear instructions will help the employee to understand what is expected of them, and speaking to them clearly and directly will help to avoid any confusion.
It is common for people with autism to show particular interest in one area, which can benefit their job role, especially when knowledge is required. They may not respond well to change, so an employer should keep this in mind when explaining changes, and trying to keep their routine and work schedule as consistent as possible. One example of doing this is to allow them the same break time each day.
Some people with autism are sensitive to sensory information such as light, sound, taste or touch. To support an autistic employee as much as possible and to avoid distress, they may be better supported by working from their own dedicated area without a sensory overload.
Encouraging learning disabilities and diversity in the workplace
As people with autism display very valuable skills which will be applied in the workplace, we should encourage people with learning difficulties to secure work and promote diversity in the workplace. Punctual and reliable, workers may display very good attention to detail, or be great at adhering to routines. Every individual will have different skills to offer, and we should seek to support and encourage their careers.
For more information or support with coping strategies, Leonie Campbell, a BPS Chartered Psychologist and a HCPC Registered Counselling and Occupational Psychologist, can help through private therapy and referrals.