Empowering Autism at Work

Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) is neurological difference that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people and the world around them. ASC affects about 1% of the population and individuals on the spectrum tend to experience specific repetitive patterns of behaviour, interests or activities. While people on the Autism spectrum share certain behaviours, their condition will affect them in many different ways. Autism affects social communication and social interaction that manifests in many ways and individuals often experience sensory sensitivities to light, sound, smell, taste and touch.

Around 700,00 people in the UK have Autism Spectrum Condition but only 16% of adults with Autism Spectrum Condition in the UK are in full-time paid employment. However, a whopping 79% of ASC individuals would like to be in work – so what’s stopping them? employment.

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One thing that often stops individuals with ASC applying for roles is the content of the job adverts that they read. As you may be aware, those with ASC have a tendency to take information literally, for example, if a job advert said, “We welcome those with neurodiversity”, those with ASC may think that there will be a bunch of people waiting at the door to welcome them in. If you have difficulties with social interaction and communication, this could very well stop you from event thinking of applying. As important as it is to provide support for those in the workplace with ASC it is just as important to ensure job adverts do not create barriers for those with ASC. Keep job adverts clear and ensure they are not open to interpretation.

So how can you make job adverts more neurodiverse friendly?

1.    Use words like: ‘We encourage those with neurodiversity to apply’, ‘We are a neurodiverse friendly organisation’, or ‘We are keen to employ neurodiverse applicants’. These terms are then interpreted as acceptance which could help increase the pool of applicants for the role.

2.    Read each sentence separately, if it does not make sense on it own or does not provide any key details you need to question whether you actually need it at all.

3.    Ask colleagues to read the job adverts without the job title involved and see if they are able to work out what the role is.

4.    Ask these colleagues to list the tasks included in the description as this will tell you whether you have included the key responsibilities of the role.

5.    Have a discussion with these colleagues about whether the job description and advert can be interpreted differently.

6.    Once you have released the job advert you will begin the interview process. Be aware that not every applicant will disclose whether they have Autism or not. At the interview if an individual has disclosed that they have Autism, they may not be comfortable shaking your hand. It is important to know that once you have met one person with a neurodiversity, you have only met one person No two people are the same and their difficulties will affect them in different ways.

At Lexxic we aim to empower neurodiversity in the workplace but also encourage those with neurodiversity to enter the workplace. In our organisation we have individuals with different types of neurodiversity and we have seen how creative the team can be together. We offer support to those employers who want to gain further knowledge through lunch and learns, webinars and our Neurotalent Unlocked e-learning platforms. We offer support for individuals with neurological conditions through screenings, diagnostics, coaching, software training, workplace needs assessments and Neurotalent Unlocked e-learning platforms.

For Autism Awareness Week we want to raise awareness of the barriers to those with ASC in applying for jobs – if you are writing a job description this week, we ask you to stop and think – are you empowering neurodiversity with this role?

By Yvette Gibson, Assistant Psychologist at Lexxic

Aidan Healy