Throughout Spring 2021, NBDC is publishing a blog series on how employers can create a more welcoming workplace for their employees with specific types of disabilities. People with disabilities are not a monolithic group; accommodations can vary greatly depending on an individual’s type of disability. This blog is the second installment of the four-part series.
April 2021 is the 10th anniversary of Autism Acceptance Month, a month-long opportunity to shift conversations about autism towards true acceptance of individuals with autism in the workplace. Autism is a broad neurodevelopmental spectrum that can impact sensory processing, language, executive functioning, social interaction, and communication. Individuals with autism understand it as a form of neurodiversity — not as a condition to be viewed as abnormal or to be “cured.”
By recognizing autism as a form of neurodiversity, employers can show their staff, clients, and customers on the spectrum that they are inclusive and accepting of neurodivergent individuals. Here are four ways employers can create a welcoming work environment for employees with autism:
- Recognize the innovative, creative perspective they bring to the workplace. Neurodiverse employees are known for their attention to detail and strong mathematic and data-based skills. In addition, like all individuals with disabilities, they bring diversity of thought and approach which can positively contribute to an organization’s bottom line and provide a competitive edge.
- Be open to alternative communication styles. With communication styles of individuals with Autism ranging from echolalia, the act of repeating spoken words, to the use of Augmentative and Alternative Communication, receiving written instructions, reading transcripts from recorded meetings, and obtaining materials in advance of training sessions may increase their comfort level and productivity.
- Offer flexibility on deadlines. Some individuals with autism experience challenges related to executive functioning, the set of cognitive processes that regulate our thoughts and actions. This may lead to the assumption am employee is being lazy, undisciplined, or disorganized. By understanding this aspect of disability, offering flexible deadlines can be an extremely helpful accommodation for employees on the spectrum and help ensure positive outcomes.
- Think creatively about accommodations. It is important for employers to recognize that accommodations are more than just wheelchair ramps and flex hours. From products like noise cancelling headphones and sound absorbing panels, to strategies such as color-coded systems and verbal cues, the accommodation options for employees with autism may be vast and different from those needed by individuals with other types of disabilities.
Welcoming employees with autism to your organization has the potential to yield countless benefits. How does your workplace accommodate employees with neurodiversity?
For more information about disability and employment best practices, contact NBDC and learn more about the benefits of becoming a NBDC corporate partner.