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Supporting people with autism in the workplace Judith Kerem Senior Consultant Prospects Employment Service Sharron McIndoe Regional Coordinator - North.

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Presentation on theme: "Supporting people with autism in the workplace Judith Kerem Senior Consultant Prospects Employment Service Sharron McIndoe Regional Coordinator - North."— Presentation transcript:

1 Supporting people with autism in the workplace Judith Kerem Senior Consultant Prospects Employment Service Sharron McIndoe Regional Coordinator - North

2 Aims of session This workshop will focus on the support needed to prepare an individual with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to find employment (paid and unpaid). We will also look at support for the employer and strategies that be put in place to support the individual and the employer in such areas as recruitment, induction and retention. It will also cover the support available from Prospects and the programmes we currently run as well as other employment initiatives being run in the UK by the National Autistic Society.

3 What is Autism? A developmental disability that affects individuals in three key areas: –Social Communication- –Social Interaction –Social Imagination A ‘hidden disability’ – Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

4 What is Autism? The exact causes of autism are unknown. 1% have a diagnosis. It is a lifelong disability. There is no cure (and many do not want one) though there are many approaches and interventions that can improve quality of life.

5 Social Communication Might interpret language in a literal way May find it difficult to join in the ‘banter’ or make ‘small talk’ Can sound formal or have stilted language Tone of voice may sound monotone May not pick up on non verbal gestures/facial expressions/hints May have narrow areas of interest

6 Social Interaction Difficulty with starting or sustaining reciprocal conversation Eye contact may be fleeting May express themselves in an ‘unconventional’ way or appear socially ‘awkward’ Some individuals may not understand ‘physical boundaries’; others may not like to be touched

7 Social Imagination Strengths usually lie in following procedures/routines rather than dealing with situations requiring initiative and judgement Difficulty with abstract thinking Sometimes problems dealing with change or taking on new ideas Difficulty understanding instinctively other peoples thoughts and feelings Apparent lack of empathy

8 Personal Insights “To you interacting is like…..breathing. I have had to learn everything”. “I wish I had a manual telling me how to respond in any given situation” “If you have Asperger syndrome, understanding conversation is like trying to understand a foreign language”.

9 UK Disability Legislation Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) –Applies to all employers. –Requirement to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ –Asperger syndrome case study 2005

10 Areas of strength Excellent attention to detail Methodical approach – won’t cut corners! Accuracy Good with facts and figures Good memory Often a strong work ethic Structured tasks, routine/repetitive tasks Motivated

11 Possible difficulties Organisational problems Communication and social difficulties Unusual Behaviour Productivity? Mental health difficulties

12 Before going into work Think about…. Realistic expectations of the workplace and career choices Paid /unpaid Qualifications Travel/Location Hours Benefits Support and training available Planning for change


14 Recruitment Where you advertise/where you look? Adverts Job description Interviews Selection tests Work trials

15 Strategies in the workplace Provide structure – Clear lines of communication with manager, timetable/plan etc. Job analysis – break down each task within the job, provide clear written guidelines on each task. If needed – create a working file. Training – identify what training is needed eg.1:1/ Specialist etc. For employer and employee

16 Strategies Give feedback – Clear and honest feedback is helpful, but also give strategies. Remember to give positive feedback when things are going well Give advance warning of any changes whenever possible eg. new staff. Is there anybody at the company willing and suitable to act as a buddy or mentor?

17 Strategies Can the environment (both physical and sensory) be adjusted in any way e.g.. moving desk/personal filing space, lighting, noise etc. Individual should be involved in process, but can seek advice from Occupational Health if needed.

18 Strategies Be precise – make sure the employee knows EXACTLY what is required of them Things may be interpreted literally and employee may not always be able to tell when someone is joking/being sarcastic. Non verbal communication may be missed so be direct. Do NOT assume anything. Keep up support…but review on a regular basis


20 Case Study Exercise Lee has Asperger syndrome and works in a large open plan office in the banking sector. He works part time (9.00-13.00) as a post clerk. His role involves opening, sorting and batching the post. He can become very anxious when arriving to work late and finds the journey stressful. He enjoys interacting with colleagues but can become very excitable (and talk very loudly) and he also can become fixated on individual females. He works very accurately and quickly but can get upset if his work is interrupted (eg. photocopier breaking down etc) and also if there are very high levels of work.

21 Key Points to Remember Performance will be linked to anxiety. Can or should you do anything to assist? Try to adopt a consistent approach. Having an ASD should not be considered as an excuse. Issues must be dealt with appropriately and swiftly through established lines of communication.

22 What the NAS can offer Work Preparation programmes In work support/ Access to Work Employer Training Disability Awareness training Links to other organisations Employee training/Advice Autism Helpline Student and Graduate support

23 Further Information National Autistic Society: NAS Autism Helpline: 0845 070 4004 Employers Forum on Disability: Autism Services Directory: Prospects Employment Service: – –020 7704 7450

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