On the ninth episode of the Autism Hangout, we discussed Autism and Employment. SOME people with special educational needs and/ or disablities often struggle with finding and maintaining work, particularly those with Autism. Due to their rigidity of thoughts, preferences for routines and familiar places and the different ways in which they communicate and socialize may not be understood by employers. This could then lead to a conflict between the employers and employees.
There are however, several steps that could be taken in order to avoid such conflicts from arising. Here are some of them:
- Train and educate employers and recruiters about Autism and its effects on individuals. Negativity towards people with Autism usually comes from people’s ignorance of Autism. Stereotypes are not always true- particulary the negative ones. By training employers and recruiters about Autism, understanding and acceptance could be increased.
- Train and educate people with Autism about job application process, particularly interviews both at home and in schools. Filling out application forms and writing CVs are hard enough even for people without any learning difficulties. Be even more patient and teach those with Autism and other learning difficulties. Provide mock interviews way before young adults leave school to allow them to practise body language, appropriate responses and dress codes.
- Companies should allow candidates to visit the job sites prior to applying for any post. In this way, any prospective applicant could observe and experience the work environment, talk to current employees, have a real sense of the job’s requirements (physical, mental and emotional). Also, carers and/ or family members should be allowed to accompany those who require assistance.
- Prospective job applicants should be aware of the Equality Act 2010 which should be adhered to by all companies.
Companies should also take the following advice into consideration:
- When placing an advertisement for any jobs, companies should explicitly emphasise specific needs for social and communication skills. This will help individuals with Autism tease-out the jobs that they could do. In addition, it avoids an unwelcomed surprise on an individual’s first day.
- When it comes to the interview stage, interviewers should be made aware of individuals’ diagnoses and the interviewer should also be someone who has experience with communicating with people with Autism.
- Interviewers should ask ‘closed’ questions (those that can be answered with a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’), and should avoid asking hypothetical questions as this may be difficult for people with Autism (particularly who are on the severe end of the spectrum) to answer. It should be noted that one of the characteristics of people with Autism is their limited (or atypical) imagination. Some find it difficult to imagine a hypothetical situation, and prefer only to think of concrete examples that have actually happened to them.
- Interviewers should also be aware that some people wth Autism may exhibit body language that may seem unusual. Interviewers are encouraged to look past these body language and focus on what the individual’s skills as a potential employee.
- It is also important to give the potential employee a lot of support before and during their employment. Give them time to think about your question (during an interview), give them specific and clear instructions, avoid metaphors, give them direct but sensitive feedback and give them a timetable.
- Most importantly, give them a chance to prove that they can actually do the job in question. Look past the Autism and I promise you, you will be amazed!
For more information and support regarding Autism and employment, visit the National Autistic Society’s website: www.autism.org.uk