Part of the goal in providing children with autism the best possible education is to help prepare them to live as comfortable and normal of a life as possible. While the concept of “normal” is always going to be a tricky one, especially for a young adult dealing with autism, it can generally be agreed that one objective is for an individual to realize their goals and achieve them professionally.
However, no matter how well prepared a young person or someone entering the work place for the first time, there are challenges that both those with autism and their colleagues will have to overcome.
First and foremost, if you are someone working with a person with autism, you will have to learn how to identify certain behavior as being symptomatic of autism and not take it personally. For instance, it helps to identify the following common situations and learn how to handle it in a swift and tactful manner while also bringing your colleagues’ attention to them.
A person might seem aloof or uninterested with other employees and it’s crucial that colleagues realize this behavior is unintentional and a result of that person’s difficulties with communication. On the other side of the spectrum, a person with autism might try too hard to fit in or exhibit grating and irritating behavior by butting into others’ conversations. It’s important to emphasize boundaries to both that person and your colleagues as their behavior might also act as a trigger for one’s behavior. Finally, when working with someone with autism, be aware of any anxious behavior and try to find out what the source of that anxiety might be through one-on-one interaction.
In addition to better understanding common situations that might arise with one’s coworker with autism, it’s also crucial to understand what one with autism might be experiencing and the challenges they face. Social situations can be very difficult because individuals with autism have an inherent deficit in the following three areas: social communication, social interaction, and social imagination.
While a person with autism can readily find themselves employment in a host of challenging occupations, ranging from accountant to journalist, it’s important to realize that they often face a host of hurdles in making the leap in adapting their existing skills to their new work environment. As such, to minimize conflict and adequately prepare employees to help ease one’s transition to a new place of employment, one might consider setting up the following activities and protocol to help everyone settle in:
- Formal activities
- Informal activities
- Ensure that instructions are precise and to the point
- Make sure the work environment is well-structured
- Clarify the job’s expectations
- Provide sensitive but honest and direct feedback
- Regularly review performance
- Help raise staff awareness
- Provide training and monitoring
- Give reassurance and praise
In short, no one should ever downplay the substantial challenges that face both the employee with autism and his or her fellow colleagues when adjusting to a new work environment. But by raising awareness and understanding what to expect, one can mitigate any problems that might arise and help set the tone for a positive and productive workplace.