Acknowledging and Supporting Neurodiverse Employees
1 in 59 children are diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Condition which remains prevalent during adult life:
- At least one in three autistic adults are experiencing severe mental health difficulties due to a lack of support.
- Only 16% of autistic adults in the UK are in full-time paid employment, and only 32% are in some kind of paid work.
- Only 10% of autistic adults receive employment support but 53% say they want it.
- One in three businesses is failing to support workers with neurodevelopmental disorders such as dyscalculia, dyslexia and Asperger’s, research has suggested.
A third (32 per cent) of 2,000 UK workers surveyed for Willis Towers Watson’s Employee Health, Wellbeing and Benefits Barometer 2019 said their employer did not offer any additional support for those in the workforce with neurodevelopmental disorders.
Supporting employees with ASC in the workplace- Top Tips!
- Clarify expectations of the job. You may need to be more explicit about your expectations. As well as the job description, you need to explain the etiquette and unwritten rules of the workplace. Make it clear that any adaptations for them in the workplace are there to help them keep doing their job well, not because they are not good enough.
- Provide training and monitoring.This can be provided informally on the job, by a manager, colleagues or a mentor, or may take the form of more formal training. You may offer a job coach, funding for this form of training may be available from the Department of Work and Pensions.
- Make sure instructions are concise and specific.Try to give the your employee clear instructions right from the start about exactly how to carry out each task, from start to finish, as this will lay the foundations for good working practices. Don’t assume the person will infer your meaning from informal instructions – for example, rather than saying ‘Give everybody a copy of this’, say ‘Make three photocopies of this, and give one each to Sam, Mary and Ahmed’. You may also choose to provide written instructions. It can be helpful to ask the person to repeat back instructions so you are sure they have understood.
- Ensure the work environment is well-structured.Some autistic people need a structured work environment. You can help by working with them to prioritise activities, organising tasks into a timetable with start and finish times, break larger tasks into small steps and help getting into a routine with breaks and lunches.
- Regularly review performance. As with any employee, line managers should have regular one-to-one meetings with the person to discuss and review performance. For an autistic staff member, brief, frequent reviews may be better than longer sessions at less frequent intervals.
- Provide sensitive but direct feedback.Autistic people often find it difficult to pick up on social cues, so make sure your feedback is honest, constructive and consistent. If they complete a task incorrectly explain tactfully but clearly why it is wrong, check that they have understood, and set out exactly what they should do instead. Ensure that any criticism is sensitive, and give positive feedback wherever possible.
- Provide reassurance in stressful situations.Autistic people can be quite meticulous, and can become anxious if their performance is not perfect. This means they may become very stressed in a situation such as an IT failure. You can help by giving concrete solutions to these situations. Your employee may benefit from having a mentor or buddy in the workplace – a colleague they can go to if they are feeling stressed, anxious or confused.
- Support your staff member to prepare for changes. As early as possibleinform them about changes to the workplace or tasks.
- Ask about sensoryAutistic employees sometimes benefit from things like screens around their desk, noise-cancelling headphones, or their desk being in a specific place in the room.
- Help other staff to be more aware.If your autistic employee consents to their condition being disclosed, then providing colleagues with information and guidance on autism can benefit everyone The employee may want to write a document for all staff explaining their autism and how they can support them.
There is still a long way to go and more research needed to fully recognise and understand the full extent of how much support an adult with Autism may need. It is vital that employers create an environment that is supportive and non-judgemental so those with an ASC do not feel isolated and feel able to openly discuss their condition without fear of being treated differently and it having a negative effect on their employment.
If you have any queries about the contents of this article, please contact a member of the HPC team:
T: 0151 556 1975