First off, I would like to apologise for the lack of blogs over the last few months, this was down to the fact that I was in no mood to be writing as it was my brother Eoin’s Birthday in November and the anniversary of when he took his own life that month also, in December I had to have surgery for a sports injury on my ankle which I will get into in another blog.
This week’s blog is going to be about something that Autistic people find very hard to understand and that is lack of employment. I don’t have the Irish figures but only 16% of autistic adults in the UK are in full-time paid employment and only 32% are in paid work at all.
I was recently delighted to be offered an internship in a brand-new company called Big and Bright, which is a talent agency and artist provisions company. Shane and Greg two guys who run the company gave me this opportunity despite me being on the Autistic Spectrum. This is my first ever job, not because I have been lazy or anything like that. I am constantly doing courses to try and upskill myself, its simply because employers do not understand ASD and the benefits of employing someone like me. Interviews are extremely difficult for people on the spectrum and we mostly fail at this stage. We can be disadvantaged because of difficulties with social interaction and other peoples lack of understanding and this can result in job loss.
I wish that more companies would follow in the path of Big and Bright and Shane and Greg and realise that Autistic people can do the same job and in some situations maybe even better if the correct procedures are put in place to help them. Young people on the Autistic Spectrum should be given opportunities just like any other young person. Every person with autism has something to give and if not given an opportunity their skills and talents are lost to the workplace. I am just reading about Neurodiversity which is the concept that no one human is same i.e. one size doesn’t fit all concept. It recognises that all variations of humans need to be respected as just another way of being.
By working for these few hours, a week, I have gained a lot more confidence and have realised that people appreciate me for who I am and don’t look down at me just because I have autism and experience more challenges in life than some other people. When working at Big and Bright, I don’t feel like I am working, I feel like I have found something that I love to do. To be honest before I started working in this company I felt like I would never get a job, I had a lot of self-doubt and felt a bit worthless. Whereas now I feel like I have more of a point in life, I am learning all the time from Shane and Greg and hope into the future to work more days in the week. I also now feel more positive about applying for a Business course in UCD this year.
Some of the most famous/successful business people are thought to be on the autistic spectrum, example of this would Richard Branson the owner of Virgin.
Ways in which you can help someone in the workplace:
- Don’t give ambiguous instructions as Autistic people will do exactly what you tell them.
- Ask about Sensory problems that they might experience, this could be something as simple as needing to dim the lights in a room or the person needing to wear ear plugs or needing music to help them concentrate on a topic.
- Start slowly don’t expect someone on the Autism spectrum to be immediately able to work a full-time job of 40 hours a week, ween them in slowly with one day a week or maybe a few hours a day.
- Educate other staff members about Autism this could be as simple as getting someone in for a talk on autism or writing a document on how to support the person with autism for staff. As someone with Autism I feel it is better for me to be open and honest about my condition as it helps others to be more understanding.
- 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, don’t allude to, or imply, any problems – instead, explain tactfully but clearly why it is wrong, check that they have understood, and set out exactly what they should do instead.
- Be aware that they may have low self-esteem or experience of being bullied, so ensure that any criticism is sensitive, and give positive feedback wherever appropriate.
- Provide reassurance in stressful situations.
- Let your staff member know well in advance if there is going to be any changes going on in work as this can mess up an autistic person’s routine examples of this might be to tell the person as soon as possible in advance if there is going to be any changes like building work taking place next to their desk and them having to move, or maybe a change in work times.
These are just a few of many different techniques that could help an employee that is working for you, if you are looking for any advice or suggestions please do not hesitate to contact us on the contact form and I will be happy to help you to help your employee.