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According to the data, the prevalence of autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) among people in the UK and Ireland is growing.
It’s estimated that there are around 700,000 autistic children and adults in the UK and Ireland. That’s likely a conservative estimate—as we get better at diagnosing this disability, we understand more about it.
The week of the 29th March-4th of April is Autism Awareness Week. This is a vital cause—it’s important that we all come together to understand what autism is, how it works, and what we can do to make our workplaces more inclusive.
What is ASD?
Autistic Spectrum Disorder is a complex, lifelong condition. It affects the way people interact with others, and affects the way people process information. You may know it as ‘autism’—for some years, now, the terms autistic spectrum disorder and autistic spectrum condition have been acceptable. In fact, some people prefer these terms. ASD is a ‘spectrum’ disorder, meaning lots of variety in the type of symptoms people experience.
What causes it?
Nobody knows the cause. Research suggests a genetic influence, with some environmental factors. Having a sibling with ASD, having older parents, and having a very low birth weight are all risk factors, but none are a cause on their own.
Autism at work
With one in a hundred people living with autism, it’s statistically likely that you know someone who does. And it’s possible that you work with someone with ASD.
While ASD can be difficult to live with, it can bring a wide array of skills—high levels of focus, persistence and reliability, technical knowledge, excellent recall and an impressive commitment to detail.
As long as the support is there, employees with ASD can be some of the most positive and applied imaginable.
Employing and supporting people with ASD
Recruiting: bear in mind that recruiting can create some barriers for people with ASD—barriers you may not have thought about. Make sure you think about this, in order to make your recruitment process as inclusive and diverse as possible.
Job descriptions can be difficult for autistic people. Literal-mindedness can mean that items in a description, such as ‘excellent communication skills’ are interpreted as a barrier. If a listed skill isn’t necessary, think about whether it needs to be included at all.
Write your job adverts in plain English, using apps like Hemingway to check your reading ease scores. Be objective, and avoid complexity—put across what the role really needs.
Managing: remember, autistic people process and interpret information in a ‘different’ way. If an employee seems detached, or aloof, this is rarely if ever a personal slight—it’s simply a difference in priority.
Make sure instructions are precise and concise, and that tasks are within scope. Provide clear and structured training. Don’t make assumptions—rather than a vague instruction, ensure delegated tasks are unambiguous!
Review performance often. It’s usually better to offer shorter, more regular reviews and feedback than longer, biannual sessions. ASD often comes with associated disorders such as ADHD. Make sure your feedback is direct, clear, and honest.
Provide routine, ask about sensory distractions, and above all communicate change clearly and ahead of schedule.
If you would like to find out more information on any of the topics mentioned in this article, please contact Health Assured on:
UK: 0844 892 2493
ROI: 01 886 0324
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