As an Autistic person, securing some form of employment is just the beginning of countless uncertainties that come with being Autistic in the workforce. For me, being employed as an Autistic person means I am closer to being financially independent.
Having been through workplace trauma, I was initially apprehensive when applying to work with SRT. However, during my employment here, my co-workers have been kind and exceedingly accommodating of my needs. I have always struggled with asking for help, but my co-workers here at SRT have been incredibly patient in working with me to understand my questions. With flexible hybrid work arrangements, I am also able to manage my anxiety by working from the safety of my home.
My manager, Paul Adams, as well as SRT’s Managing Director Charlotte Nors, have also made it a point to include me in company activities and gatherings, making necessary accommodations and ensuring that I always have a safe space to go to, should I feel overwhelmed. As such, not only have I been able to be a productive and contributing employee, but I have also been able to socialise and have fun with my co-workers.
This World Autism Awareness Month, I would like to take the opportunity to be an advocate and outline some ways in which Autistic persons can be supported in the office.
1. Be direct.
An Autistic person may struggle to “read between the lines” or understand sarcasm. We may also be unable to discern your tone of voice or facial expressions. To avoid misunderstandings, please say what you mean.
2. Sensory sensitiveness.
Bright lights, loud noises, and strong smells can be distracting or distressing to an Autistic person. Although sensitivity does differ between Autistics (as well as neuro-typicals), a general rule of thumb would be to offer a safe space where we can go to if the environment becomes too much. Always ask if there are any accommodations that they require.
Disruption is distressing for us. Should there be a change in plans, location, or environment, we should be informed at the earliest possibility. Provide as many details of the change as possible and help us reorientate ourselves - which can include giving us steps to follow and regain momentum; but do not put the pressure on us to comply with sudden changes.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but can be used as a guide in making the workplace safe for Autistic persons. Everyone has different needs, and it is important to ask about what support they may require.