Autism and the Workplace: Strategies for Success

The workplace is often challenging for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This can, however, be overcome by putting in place strategies that can help people with autism succeed.

Social Skills & Employment for Adults with Autism

It is possible for adults with autism to be very skilled in their fields of expertise. In spite of this, they may struggle to get through an interview, find a job, maintain a job, or move up in their current job due to their difficulties with social skills and perception. Employment includes social and communication skills, which are skill sets that people with autism experience differently than neurotypical people.

Autism and Sensory Issues in Employment

Sensory issues can also affect people with autism. Workplace environments can cause sensory overload. Sensory stimulation and sensory overload are experienced differently by each individual. Generally speaking, adults with autism may find it difficult to cope with environments that are too noisy, chaotic, fast-paced, or disorganized. The environment where people with autism must respond quickly and frequently to social situations might overwhelm them as well.

Workplace Socializing

Work environments are often designed for neurotypical people rather than for people with autism. It is evident in both the social expectations of most organizations and the physical aspects of the job. Social interactions are often encouraged in offices through open floor plans, normal chit-chat among coworkers, and how meetings and special events are organized. People with autism may find this challenging. It is not only that some people will fail to fully understand the person with autism, but the person with autism may also become overwhelmed by all the social aspects of the workplace.

Employment Benefits

It is possible for people with autism who believe they should be working to struggle with low self-esteem if they do not have employment. It is likely that they will also have difficulty becoming financially independent and being able to fully support themselves simply due to the lack of financial means to live on their own, even if they are able to learn the necessary daily living skills.

Workplace Neurodiversity

It is possible for adults with autism to have a successful work life. Both employers and employees can benefit from employer support for people with autism. For people with autism, finding an employer who supports neurodiversity is essential. In this type of environment, employers will provide and encourage accommodations that will enable employees with autism to have a better work experience at work, as well as provide higher-quality work performance that benefits the organization.

Autism Self-Awareness for Adults

The practice of self-awareness is helpful for adults with autism who are in the workforce. It is important for adults with autism to be aware of their own preferences and needs. This will enable them to take an active role in creating a work environment that suits them. Identify any skills or activities you are not that good at or that make you uncomfortable. You will be able to avoid jobs that rely heavily on those skills this way.

If you have trouble making small talk and interacting with others, you might prefer stocking and organizing in a retail job position instead of working at the cash register.

In addition, knowing your own strengths and abilities is equally important. By knowing these characteristics, you can choose a job based on them. Furthermore, you’ll be more able to make conscious decisions about what tasks you should take on and what tasks you should decline when it’s an option in your particular job position. It can also help you avoid becoming so burned out by engaging in activities that are not aligned with your strengths or abilities or that directly contradict them and, instead, you have to mask your way through tasks that are much more challenging for you to complete.

Write down what you are good at or what makes you stand out from others in order to identify your strengths. Identify jobs that use these skills, then consider applying for them.

Masking at Work

As a concept, masking refers to how a person might act in certain ways in order to appear more like those around them. When someone puts on a “mask,” they aren’t acting according to their true nature. Instead, they put in extra effort and energy to seem more acceptable to others by being a certain way. It is common for adults with autism to mask when performing their job duties. Acting in a way that supports a person’s goals is not necessarily a bad thing. Nevertheless, excessive use can lead to burnout, anxiety, depression, and other issues.

The Challenges of Interviewing

In order to obtain employment, people with autism usually need to get through an interview and then be selected from among the other candidates. Practice interviewing before going to the interview is one recommendation. Those with autism can practice questions they might encounter during an interview. Also, they can practice specific social skills, such as eye contact or looking at the interviewer, answering questions about small talk, and asking questions about the job.

Strategies for Workplace Success

It is important for adults with autism to explore accommodations and strategies that will work for them in the workplace. It depends on the individual. Some examples of things to consider for adults with autism include having personal space such as an office or a break room that the person can go to for time away from social situations, having headphones or earbuds to manage sensory input, managing expectations regarding social interactions, being allowed to opt out of holiday events or team-building activities (or the organization having more neurodiversity friendly events in the first place), having a consistent schedule, and having clear expectations of what the employer would like the person to accomplish.

In order to help adults with autism be more successful at work, employers and individuals with autism can implement a number of strategies. We have only discussed a few recommendations so far. Neurodiversity should be accommodated and supported by employers. Employees and employers both benefit from this.

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