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Haven’t done an #ActuallyAutistic thread in a while & I’m having a rest & recover spoons day, so here are my top tips for getting the best out of an autistic colleague / employee. I also think some these tips are transferable to friendships, but that’s a topic for another day 1/
Offer an autistic employee flexible working & tailor their hours & presence to their particular needs. Some might prefer to work from home, others might want to come in to an office, but find rush hour difficult so might want to travel in before or after the worst of it. 2/
Many autistic people are self-starters & don’t need to be in a face-to-face environment to get work done. It’s not true of everyone, of course, but it can be easier than an open-plan office, for example, where the environment can be unbearable for some autistic people 3/
Some autistic people can get worn out more quickly than others & many of us get a lot of work done in intensive, concentrated bursts. It might be worth rethinking your approach to hours vs productivity. Pay for an autistic employee’s work, be more relaxed about their time. 4/
Set clear goals & don’t suddenly move goalposts or impose unexpected tasks / overload an autistic employee. Explain everything clearly in writing where possible rather than bombarding with verbal information, which can be confusing & overwhelming 5/
Be really clear & direct with autistic employees. For example, if you don’t like an idea, don’t say things like “yes that could be a possibility”. Make it clear that it’s a no. We don’t always pick up on hints & subtleties. 6/
If you do have to deliver bad news, do it in writing first & let us deal with our own initial reaction in private so that we can collect ourselves & figure out how we want to respond. We’re not always good at hiding our emotions or responding off script on the spot. 7/
Try not to spring unexpected interactions on autistic co-workers or employees. For example, if you need to phone, arrange a time in advance where possible. Try not to bring surprise people into meetings etc. without a quick word of preparation. 8/
If you are bringing an autistic employee into a work environment, sit down with them & make a plan for reasonable adjustments. A more secluded office might be appropriate, tailored lighting conditions or more environmental control etc. Don’t assume what those are - ask. 9/
Try to be considerate towards an autistic colleague by thinking about the extra impact your routine behaviours might have on us. Casual chit chat might be exhausting. A smelly lunch might be catastrophic. The radio on in the background might burn us out in minutes. 10/
We can be very direct & blunt, so try not to take that personally & remember we’re often dealing in facts rather than playing some sort of mind game. We can also struggle to interpret unwritten social rules, we might need hierarchies & our place within them spelled out. 11/
Try not to impose unnecessary work culture rules onto autistic workers. For example, don’t make after-work social events mandatory or pressure autistic employees to join in if they don’t want to or make us stay late to prove ourselves when we’ve efficiently finished our tasks 12/
We might have a meltdown. That’s our body’s physical response to sensory &/or emotional overload. If this happens, remove all sensory input & make the environment safe. Understand it’s not a behavioural issue. Treat it like you would a seizure & don’t make it a big deal. 13/
While having compassion for why we might be behaving in ways you don’t understand, try not to talk down to us or treat us like children. We will pick up on it & it’s unlikely we’ll enjoy it. We may need to manage our time & energy differently, but we are still capable. 14/
And finally - remember your autistic colleague has spent their whole life trying to adjust their behaviour to be understood by wider, neurotypical society. The best thing you can do is really read up on autism, learn all you can & do some of the emotional labour. We’re worth it.
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