Autism and Employment

What I Want Employers To Know – From An Autistic Perspective

Two people walking to work with images of a clock and cogs in the background.

Seeking employment can be a minefield for anyone with autism and only 15% of people with autism are in full-time employment.

Social communication, jobhunting, interviews, maintaining employment and sensory sensitivities in the workplace are a few challenges that may be faced.

Hints and Tips

Below are my personal 6 pointers that I feel could a) help autistic job hunters navigate the job market, and b) businesses create a supportive employment experience for their autistic employees:

1. One to one support with a careers advisor would be beneficial when job hunting as it can be hard to decide what sector to work in. I am skilled at written communication and ICT and am extremely ambitious to provide appropriate support to people with autism. However, my extreme anxiety and communication difficulties makes it challenging for me to find suitable jobs.

2. I think job interviews can often be a daunting prospect because of anxiety and dislike of unpredictability. I would need support by having mock interviews with trusted people to ensure I have strategies to manage my anxiety and build my self-esteem. It would help to have a list of interview questions beforehand from the employer so I would know what type of questions to expect.

I would appreciate the employer giving me extra time to process information during the interview too. Having a friend to come with me to the interview would be useful too. A good idea is to allow me to complete a series of work experience where I can practically show my skills (as opposed to explaining answers during a competency based interview – as this is something I find difficult).

3. Setting up a buddy system would be incredibly useful to provide me with support in communicating with others and help by explaining tasks during the working day. I would need on-going support from a supervisor as I would need additional time to adjust to the working environment and to understand my responsibilities.

4. Having written instructions or video instructions of how to complete the tasks would be good to have as I can struggle to remember things, especially when concentrating on a specific task or feel overwhelmed.

5. It would help to be introduced to all members of staff beforehand as this would reduce my anxieties. Everyone should be made aware of my autism and how it affects me individually. The manager needs to be aware of the reasonable adjustments that should be in place for employees on the autism spectrum.

6. A reduced timetable/part-time position may help at the beginning to reduce anxiety and ease me into the bustling work environment. I get anxious very easily, particularly when communicating with new people that I don’t know well. I struggle to know what to say when asked questions as I’m put on the spot. Social situations can be frightening, overwhelming and exhausting therefore, a part-time position would benefit me greatly.

Focusing on the positives

Please focus on my strengths in the workplace. I have excellent written communication skills and ICT skills, organisation and meeting deadlines. I am enthusiastic and proactive and put a lot of effort into everything that I do. I need these strengths to be considered and celebrated!

I hope my tips are useful for anyone who is autistic is thinking about entering the world of work as well as for companies who have recognised their responsibilities in the workplace and want to understand and offer support for autistic job seekers and employees.  

Written by Lauren

Autism in girls – Lauren’s real life story

Two girls supporting each other as they stand

Before My Diagnosis

I was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism aged 12. Before my diagnosis, I realised there was something different about the way my mind worked, but I couldn’t fathom it out. This led to me feeling confused and very isolated. I knew I was different from my peers and I felt different – I stood out from the rest of the crowd.

One vivid memory of my primary school life was standing in the lonely corner of the playground, observing everyone rather than participating in the play. I was picked on for not acting similarly to my peers – I was baffled as to why I felt like I couldn’t just get involved.

Lack Of Support For Girls With Autism

I was overwhelmed by the lack of support I received at school, especially when signs of autism became more apparent at the age of eight. I often became extremely stressed, particularly when I started secondary school.

My severe anxiety and continuous frustrations took a toll on the whole family, causing numerous arguments. I would tend to be physically defensive when I was upset. The majority of the time, it was thought that I had a ‘bad attitude’, however I now realise that what I was experiencing was a sensory overload and I was just trying to communicate how troubling my world seemed. Both Mum and Dad were, unfortunately on the edge of a nervous breakdown.

Autism In Girls

Girls on the autism spectrum are often missed and they are just considered ‘shy’. After experiencing selective mutism for two years at primary school, an autism diagnosis was looked into. The journey to receive an official diagnosis was tough, exhausting and infuriating. However, I did eventually get told that my insecurities, stresses, anxieties, and overwhelming sensations unravelled to an autism spectrum condition.

After My Diagnosis

Upon receiving my diagnosis, I felt relieved; I could stop trying so hard to conform and focus on the path to self-discovery. This has been both an adventurous and anxiety-provoking journey!

I have researched the condition endlessly and raising awareness of it has now become one of my passions. Autism is my special interest! At times I still feel overwhelmed and frustrated at the lack of appropriate support, therefore, I am trying my hardest to change this by encouraging society to embrace our differences and welcome the autistic mind.

Looking For Positives

I struggle to understand why I should constantly fit in with others; why can’t neurotypicals see things from our perspective? Despite still experiencing occasional depressive episodes, I have used my negative experience of other people’s ignorance towards autism in a positive way. Learning more about autism everyday motivates me to pursue my dream of supporting others with the condition.

Autism is inspiring. There is always hope; never lose sight and give everything your best shot! You are worth it and you are loved!