Autism is a life long developmental disability affecting approximately five hundred thousand people in the UK and if one includes family and carers it touches the lives of more than two million people. It develops as a disability in early childhood between the ages of 0 to 3 years, though it can also present during adolescence and it is note worthy that many adults are diagnosed with it in later life. Autism is regarded as a spectrum disorder which means that it varies individually in both how people are affected by it and how the different dimensions of autism such as social functioning and communication affect the individual. Some people are often reffered too as high functioning and are regarded as having Aspergers syndrome.
Aspergers syndrome itself is also part of the Autistic spectrum and again affects people to varying degrees, influencing how people make sense of the world around them. People with Aspergers are regarded as high functioning on the autistic spectrum because they generally have a higher intellectual capacity whilst their social capacity is more diminished. It is a hidden disability and only becomes apparent to the outside world during interaction with others, however whilst it does have negative effects on peoples lives it also has positive effects.
As with Autism, people with Aspergers exhibit repetitive behaviour patterns and impairment in social functioning as well as fixed patterns of thinking. People may also experience the world around them differently in terms of how they sense things for example they may have different sense of smell taste and sensitivity to noise. One of the complexities of Aspergers is that people can crave social acceptance yet struggle with navigating the complex nuances of human interaction such as body language and facial expression.
There are many myths surrounding Autism and Aspergers syndrome including the following
1, Children with Autism don’t make eye contact
2, Children with Autism are are hidden geniuses.
3, Children with Autism can’t show affection.
4, Autism can be outgrown.
5, Children with Autism cannot learn.
6, Autism is rare.
7, Aspergers syndrome is a result of poor parenting.
8, People with Aspergers lack imagination.
9, Autistic people don’t build or form relationships.
10, Autistic people are dangerous.
Given the fact that these myths exist, it is not surprising that bullying is a common experience for people with Autism, both in school and the work place. However it doesn’t have to be this way with the right support people with Autism and Aspergers can flourish in subjects like maths and science they can succeed at school and college.
In the workplace adults with Autism and aspergers can find meaning in routine precision tasks and can excel in areas like computing and finance. A few reasonable adjustments and some understanding of the needs of people who are living on the Autistic spectrum can enable an employer to gain a valuable employee, such adjustments might include mentoring and recognising that not all employees want or need the level of social interaction the rest of the work force need.
To read a case study on Autism and Aspergers click here
We also offder a companies login that gives you access to 10 top tips and an employment guidance. To request a company login e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
One of our top tips!
People with autism like clear, concise and structured processes, therefore the interview questions should reflect these needs. They may take words literally therefore non-communication such as body language and facial expressions should be clear.
Remember social relationships are not of interest to people in this situation and therefore starting a conversation on general topics is not important or of interest to them.
Using closed questions such as “Tell me about any jobs or work you have done in the last five years”. You might find that candidates find it difficult to come to a natural conclusion, if this is the case, tell them to stop, be tactful and say “thank you, you have told us enough, I would like to ask you another question”
Be aware that they may interpret questions literally for instance “how did you find your last job”; they might reply to this by saying “they found it in the Newspaper and applied by completing an application form”. Instead you might consider asking them more direct questions like “did you enjoy your last job?” so they can answer the question literally without confusing the meaning of the question asked.
Be aware that eye contact might be infrequent or prolonged depending on the individual.