Embracing Neurodiversity – Supporting Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Workplace

During this week, we at White Willow Partners want to highlight and celebrate neurodiversity in particular, Autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

With a lived experience of the condition, we are best placed to guide, advise and understand the challenges faced by autistic individuals in the workplace, and those who wish to support and encourage team members who have different requirements to those who are classed as neurotypical.

All people with autism share certain difficulties, but having autism will affect them in different ways. Some people with autism also have learning disabilities, mental health issues or other conditions (also referred to as overlap/co-occurrence).

As employers, we have a responsibility under the Equality Act 2010 to act fairly and without discrimination to all individuals classified as neurodiverse.

Here are some helpful suggestions/examples of how to tackle certain situations which may cause challenges in the workplace for both employer and individual.

  • Ask the individual what has helped them in the past at work.
  • Ask them what (or who) could help them now.
  • Try to understand how their challenges may affect them at work. Discuss the job day and expectations with the person, where possible.
  • Consider developing an individual development plan and regularly review it to see what is working well or not.
  • Arrange short and regular meetings to discuss goals, and review how work is going. This can make a big difference and can reduce anxiety and allow small problems to be dealt with quickly if they arise.
  • Ask if (and what) the individual wants others to know about their diagnosis/condition (including peers and line managers) and how they want it described / told to others.
  • Ask what situations/ tasks make it harder for them to complete their work, such as background noises or working in group settings.
  • Discuss, where possible, the individual’s preferred form of communication (e.g. email, orally, face-to-face meetings, in a quiet setting).
  • Encourage the individual to consider their mental wellbeing, as they may be at greater risk of anxiety and depression.
  • Where possible, use technology to help with work tasks, including spellcheckers, text-to-speech, proofing and speech-to-text software, organisers, diary systems and alarms.
  • The individual may need training and sufficient time to practice if learning new skills or accessing software in order to become confident in their work setting.​

These are just a selection of approaches we have found useful and are by no means limited to this list.

Fortunately, many organisations recognise that employees with neurodiverse conditions bring particular strengths to the workplace. Many challenges can be overcome by better understanding the benefits of neurodiverse employees and making reasonable adjustments so they can flourish. Line managers and supervisors should receive training in managing neurodiverse workers and awareness training for colleagues can also help to alleviate stressful situations.

At White Willow Partners we have developed a training programme for both Line Managers and colleagues so please contact us for further information on what we can offer or how we can help.

Posted in Neurodiversity.