ADVICE FOR EMPLOYERS
WITH ASPIE WORKERS
Many people are not aware that often there are
laws stating that employers must make reasonable accommodations
for people with disabilities. While this does not apply in all countries,
or possibly not in all States, it is worth checking out if you are
on the autism spectrum and having trouble at work, even if you
don't like being labeled as "having a disability".
'Auties' and 'aspies' can be brilliant workers
People with Autism
will face issues that cause problems at work. However, we also have
strengths, some of which may be incredible focus, eye for detail,
not wasting time socializing and dedication. Employers can reap
these benefits for possibly the small cost of making some accommodations.
Even better, governments are realizing this and slowly introducing
laws where a person with a disability can't be sacked until the
employer has shown reasonable attempts to make accommodations for
someone's disability. Check the legal situation in your area.
These laws are not obviously there to keep you
in a job when you are completely hopeless at it. But if you are
good at your job, you might be hampered by sensory
problems: too much noise in the office, the hum of the air conditioner,
a chaotic messy environment and other things that can drive us crazy!
These laws state that an employer should make reasonable efforts
to minimize conditions that affect our disability. Even when these
laws don't exist, you can talk with your employer about simple accommodations
that enable you to work more effectively.
When considering accommodations for someone on the autism spectrum,
it is important to remember that this process must be conducted
on a case by case basis with input from the individual. The important
• What are the limitations the individual is experiencing?
• To what degree do these limitations affect the person and their
• What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
• Has the individual been consulted regarding accommodation needs?
• What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these
• Is the person consulted on effectiveness of existing accommodations
and to determine if others are needed?
Examples of accommodation
These are actual examples of how accommodations
were made for various disabilities.
A police officer, returning to work following
surgery for a brain aneurysm, had partial paralysis to the left
side and could no longer use both hands for word processing. Transferring
to a vacant position that involved computer research accommodated
him and he was provided a one handed keyboard.
A professional whose work required the use of a computer returned
to work following a brain injury. As a result of his injury he was
unable to read past the midline when reading from left to right.
Accommodation suggestions included: changing the margin settings
of his word processing program for 80 to 40 to limit right side
reading, or to purchase software that would that can split the computer
screen left to right and black out the right side; redesign his
workstation to place equipment on the left; and provide task lighting.
A nurse on the autism spectrum was always getting
staff offside because she appeared to be uncaring and arrogant in
her social interactions with other staff. Her supervisor provided
constructive feedback on the nurse's social interactions, and with
the nurse's permission, explained the underlying issues to other
staff. The situation improved dramatically as staff understood their
colleague better, and she was able to start modifying her social
interactions to appear less abrasive to others.
A laborer with Asperger's was working in a noisy factory had difficulty
concentrating on job tasks. Accommodation suggestions included:
erecting sound absorbing barriers around his work station, moving
unnecessary equipment from the area to reduce traffic and allowing
the employee to wear a headset or ear plugs.
For those of us on the autism spectrum, plenty of it will come
down things like sensory
problems. Our concentration and inner peace can be shattered
by workplace disorder, others chattering or the hideous pitch of
the photocopier's whining. Typical accommodations would be reducing
distractions in the work area by providing space enclosures or a
private office, and allowing for use of white noise or environmental
sound machines. Let the employee play soothing music using a headset.
Increase natural lighting (or decrease it!) and reduce clutter in
the employee’s work environment. The employer can attain a basic
understanding of autie issues and be supportive if ;sudden changes
throw us off course, or we get buried in too much detail and miss
the big picture.
Working effectively with supervisors
Provide positive praise and reinforcement
.Written job instructions and clear expectations of responsibilities
and the consequences of not meeting them are very helpful to us,
we typically love precise boundaries in black and white!
Allow for open communication to supervisors and
establish written long-term and short-term goals. Develop strategies
to deal with problems before they arise and develop a procedure
to evaluate the strategies' effectiveness.
Recognize that a change in the office environment or of supervisors
may be difficult for a person on the autism spectrum. Keep open
channels of communication between the employee and the new and old
supervisor in order to ensure an effective transition. Provide weekly
or monthly meetings with the employee to discuss workplace issues.
If there is legislation in your area for this
kind of thing, I'm not suggesting you sue your employer for all
their worth. But if they do refuse to make reasonable accommodations,
you may have the law on your side in claiming discrimination against
someone with a disability because they wouldn't take a few easy,
low cost steps to help you work more efficiently.
Click here for the full range of Asperger's and autism fact sheets and personal stories
Click here to
read more personal stories from parents of children on the autism spectrum, and from adults living with Autism, Asperger's syndrome
and other Autism Spectrum Disorders
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