Some Adults living with Autism know exactly what kind of work they want to do. Others are flexible, and others have no idea. But, just like everyone else, adults with autism have the right to work.
Even if a person has limited verbal skills, it’s important to know that the work they are doing suits their sense of purpose, interests and abilities.
Working, whether paid or unpaid, is good for our health and well-being. It gives us the means to develop ourselves and gives us a sense of personal achievement. It also gives us a sense of identity, keeps us busy, builds confidence and self-esteem, contributes to happiness, provides money to support ourselves and explore interests, and it challenges us.
Our mental and physical health is generally improved through work. The health benefits of working assists in reducing the risks of long-term illness and reduces recovery times from sickness. Resulting in working people having more healthier and happier lives.
For people with Autism, work provides a therapeutic medium that helps with independence, improves social skills, increases self-esteem, builds contacts, access to more support networks, uncovers untapped capabilities, builds skills, gives a sense of pride and rewards financially.
People with Autism can be very committed and conscientious in their work, display good punctuality, integrity and honesty and tend to be absent from work less often than other employees. Individuals who have a strong preference for routine will often be an extremely loyal employee, once settled into their job.
There are aspects to employment which can be challenging and stressful for many people with autism. Autism affects social and communication skills and sometimes individuals find it difficult to cope with change and see situations from other peoples and different perspectives.
Without support, all of these areas could make employment difficult and stressful for a person with autism. With support, individuals are in a much better position to reach their full potential in their role and find it much more enjoyable and less stressful. If colleagues know about your Autism they are likely to be more understanding, which will help build better relationships and be more successful at work, making work less stressful.
Workplace support from a mentor who has a good understanding of autism can be of great benefit in overcoming some of the difficulties associated with the workplace.
ProActiv’s Disability Employment Services (DES) can work in collaboration with the jobseeker/employee and the staff to provide training and support to build the skills and capacity within the work team to get better outcomes for jobseekers on the spectrum.
Helping with tips for coping with sensory issues in the workplace, communication, social interactions, small talk and joining into a conversation, deadlines, dealing with change in the workplace, difficulty handling criticism and difficulty with sharing and collaboration.
An office environment can be chaotic, noisy and disorganized and the social expectations on staff can be high for after work drinks, weekly events and social functions.
People can interpret a lack of small talk as being disinterested or rude which may limit the development of professional or social relationships. Workplace banter commonly relies heavily on sarcasm and a tendency to interpret language literally, along with difficulty in interpreting facial expressions and body language, can make it particularly difficult for some people with autism to identify when someone is being sarcastic.
Conversation can then become a complicated and stressful process, and some people may find it easier to avoid conversations altogether.
Awareness training for managers and colleagues can help them understand you better, be more empathetic towards you, be less likely to get offended or upset if you break an ‘unwritten rule’, be less likely to misinterpret your non-verbal communication and be more accepting of adaptations and adjustments.
Hiding the autism can take a toll on mental health working under so much stress, when simple education of managers and colleagues and a few changes can make all the difference to an inclusive, supportive and happy workplace for the individual.
To find out what working environment suits a person with autism, work experience and voluntary work are a great way to identify what your preferences are, what tasks you enjoy and what areas you need to develop before or whilst working.
ProActiv People can help identify what support you might require in place whilst working and how the transition to employment can identify the barriers faced and uncover the untapped capabilities of the individual.
ProActiv’s Disability Employment Services (DES) staff understand the barriers faced and unique strengths when making the transition into employment. We work with you to uncover your untapped capabilities and help fulfil your potential in the workplace and find meaningful employment. Supporting job seekers and employees with autism to develop key skills to find and maintain long term, meaningful employment.