The objective of this guide is to give all people with autism the tools so that they can fully exploit their capacities in the service of their professional ambitions.
This guide was written with the help of Autsiconsult and in particular Flora Thiébaut, and the help of Laurence Moszkowicz.
I. Autism in the professional world
What is the autism spectrum?
Autism is a neurodevelopmental feature that influences a person’s perception, cognition, and emotions. Its 2 characteristics are:
– Difficulties or qualitative differences in communication and social interactions
– The tendency to develop marked, repetitive and often restricted activities or centers of interest, in any case very invested
Another characteristic is present in the majority of people with autism:
– An atypical sensoriality, marked by hypersensitivity (sensoriality exacerbated to noise, light, odors, etc.) or hyposensitivities (more to cold or pain)
Autism affects between 1 and 2% of the world’s population. Some people with autism (30%) have an intellectual disability associated with their autism, but 70% show a normal or higher intellectual level. These statistics should be taken with caution as they are based on ordinary cognitive assessment tools such as the Wechsler scales, which are developed on non-autistic populations and are not adapted to the particularities of people with autism, and undervalue most certainly their true potential.
Autism is by no means a disease, it is a condition. There is no cure for autism, we keep its peculiarities of cognitive functioning all our life. On the other hand, the degree of adaptability of an autistic person and his access to “happiness” are fluctuating, can evolve throughout his life, and depend very strongly on the degree of adaptability of his environment to his peculiarities.
The diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder is made when the first 2 characteristics described above are confirmed, and the consequences of these characteristics have a negative impact on the psychological well-being of the person (depression, anxiety, etc.) , or on his professional, personal or social life. The goal of clinical diagnosis is access to appropriate, specialized help. But some clinicians, such as Prof. Tony Attwood, a senior autism and Asperger syndrome specialist, withdraws the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder when he considers that their patient no longer has any disorders related to his autism. Autism does not prevent anything in itself: neither psychological well-being, nor to lead a satisfying life at the personal level as professional. It is when the person’s environment and his autistic characteristics are incompatible that the suffering or the situation of handicap is felt.
Autism has 3 main impacts on the world of work. It should be noted that each person shows a unique profile, these 3 impacts can therefore be more or less marked:
– Interpersonal communication. Many people with autism have difficulty understanding non-verbal communication: innuendo, second degree, sarcasm, irony, intonations, mimicry … They rarely use this type of communication, and the non-verbal signals they transmit can be interpreted by people without autism as messages when they are not. Thus, their responses and attitudes may appear direct or inadequate. It therefore affects the way of communicating and socializing with colleagues, superiors and clients. In addition, people with autism may have a specific interest. It is a specific subject in which they will be interested in a very precise way. It can be a general subject (such as art) or a very specific subject (such as helicopter propellers).
A person with autism can:
Not understanding an instruction if it is not explicitly verbalized;
Restrict yourself to a literal understanding of what is being said;
Tend to be frank and direct regardless of the profile of their interlocutor or their position in the company;
A lot of talking about her specific interests without realizing if she is bothering her interlocutor;
Speak with a very fast or very slow speed and with a particular tone (which may at first be perceived as an accent).
Have an atypical look (do not look in the eyes, or look too fixedly in the eyes …)
Most people with autism have a social appetite comparable to that of non-autistic people, but social contact being more taxing and tiring for them, they may need to recharge their batteries regularly and not participate as much in the social life of the company. to preserve their energy.
– Organization and planning. People with autism have a cognitive perception that has a local bias. That is, they tend to perceive the details more easily than the overall. They may also have difficulty in projecting themselves (in another space, in the future…). Thus, some people with autism will have difficulty prioritizing, knowing how to start a task, estimating the time necessary for its completion, being multitasking and being frequently interrupted in their activity. They may ask a lot of questions or be interested in specific details. It is important to be clear and to explain when a situation changes because this specific behavior can sometimes involve a certain rigidity.
– Hypersensitivity, hyposensitivity and motor coordination challenges. Nine out of 10 people with autism have hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity to one or more of the senses. For example: light (its color and intensity), the smell in offices (colleague who smells of tobacco, smell of food), and touch (friendly pat, shaking hands) can affect people with autism. Some may also be hyposensitive, especially to pain (does not feel pain) or cold (is not sensitive to cold). Hyposensitivity has limited impacts for office jobs but must be an important point of vigilance for jobs in factories, on construction sites, etc. Less frequently, coordination challenges may relate to writing (its readability and quality), which can make note-taking complicated and make it difficult to perform certain manual tasks (e.g. folding a letter).
A person with autism can also have co-morbidities (dyspraxia, anxiety, depression, etc.) making it all the more important to create a work environment that allows people with autism to show all of their skills and flourish.
Integrating people with autism into the world of work
A person with autism is just as competent as a person without autism. An autistic person has his own functioning characteristics compared to a non-autistic person. There are skills she can shine in, and others she may have more difficulty in. It is important not to generalize because it depends both on the diagnosis of the autistic person and on the characteristics specific to that person.
However, it is important to adapt the world of work to people with autism. Often people with autism appear unsuitable for the world of work because they are asked to act in a way that does not correspond to their functioning. People with autism are social chameleons. They have the particularity of knowing how to copy and reproduce. They can try to adapt their behavior and skills to what is expected of them, in a given environment, even if it does not correspond to their functioning. This leads to overcompensation on the part of autistic people and can lead to great fatigue and consequences on the work itself (quality, increased stress etc.)
Simple advice and a little flexibility have the capacity to have a very positive impact on people with autism in the world of work. This advice is all the more effective when it is adapted to the diagnosis and to the specific characteristics of the autistic person.
Below, there are simple tips for people with autism and employers to help people with autism integrate into the world of work.
Here are some tips on how to best manage your particularity in the professional world. Some of your needs may not be present in this list. You can communicate your specific needs to your employer so that they can adapt as well as possible. If you do not know your specific needs, you can call on a professional (coach, psychologist, etc. familiar with autism) to identify them. It is useful to identify a referent, trusted colleague to whom you can easily express your doubts and ask your questions.
– Companies have rules, often implicit, valid for all employees. These rules are also called social norms. They relate to how you dress, how you talk with colleagues, when you can take breaks.
There are also rules that are specific to your team. To find out about these rules, you can ask human resources if a guide exists. If the guide does not exist, you can note these rules in a notebook that you will observe them, or ask your referent colleague to explain them to you as you go.
– In order to be at the top of your efficiency at work, it is important to set up an ergonomic environment corresponding to your needs. You can express these to HR in order to benefit from any arrangements (example: hypersensitivity to noise = need for an insulating helmet and a quiet office. Visual hypersensitivity to movement = orientation of the office facing the wall. Hypersensitivity to light = Wear sunglasses in the open space).
– You can ask to have a referent colleague within the team in which you work. This colleague will be able to answer your questions about the company in general and the projects you are working on. It can also redirect you to the right people when needed.
– If you have a question about a project you are working on, don’t hesitate to ask it. For example, you can ask your referring colleague. If he doesn’t know how to answer you, you can ask him to point you to the person who can answer your questions.
– You have strengths and weaknesses. You can know these elements personally or have identified them thanks to your diagnosis or a job coach. It is important to share your strengths and weaknesses with your employer, to make sure you are not in a situation that is not for you.
– In business, you often have tasks to accomplish and a list of things to do or finish by a specific date. Sometimes it’s hard to remember and prioritize tasks. It is important to ask your referent or your manager what to do (even if they have already given them to you), when to finish them, and their priority. You can tag these items on tools like Evernote, OneNote, or Trello to make sure you remember them and get the job done on time.
– If you have a question on how to take a vacation, how to find meal vouchers, how to benefit from advantages, you can ask your referent colleague. If he doesn’t know how to answer you, you can ask him to point you to the person who can answer your questions.
– If there is a task or a project that you wish to do, do not hesitate to communicate it, if necessary by asking your referent colleague for advice. Be careful, the answer may be no.
– To progress, you can ask the people you work with for written or oral feedback. The purpose of feedback is to tell you what you are doing well and what you are not doing well. This feedback is used to have information to understand what you can improve. They are very important for professional progress.
– Meetings are environments where it is sometimes difficult to be comfortable or to speak. You can ask if you are essential to the meeting and if so, you can ask for your role to be clarified. If your presence is not essential, you can share your point of view and information in writing, before the meeting.
– If a task you have to do, a question you are asked, or a sentence that one of your colleagues has said, is not clear to you, ask the person to repeat more clearly, specifying that it is easier for you when it is explicit.
– Corporate communication has codes and rules which are often implicit:
– It is important to watch people in order to show them your interest and attention to what they are saying, but you should not stare at them all the time. For example, on 30 seconds you can watch them for 27 seconds and watch something else for 3 seconds.
– You should not talk to a manager the same way you talk to a colleague. For the manager, it is important to avoid giving orders or making remarks about the manager’s work. For the coworker, you can ask him / her what you can tell him / her and what you should avoid.
– In some companies there is a dress code. This dress code may not be right for you. If so, you can talk to your manager or Human Resources to see if you can dress in a way that makes you comfortable.
– In a company, there are often times to discuss with people. It can be at the coffee machine, for lunch, for breaks. These times may make you uncomfortable. They are by no means an obligation. However, it is important to be able to exchange from time to time with people within the company, even if it is only once a week.
– In a company, there are sometimes traditions. It could be team lunches on the same day each week, going to a bar with the team on the same day each week, corporate parties. These traditions can make you uncomfortable as it can be in noisy places and the conversations can be about topics that are not of interest to you. When possible, you can talk to your team or your manager, to find conditions that suit you (example: being in a quiet room for lunch and being in a quiet room in a bar). There is also no obligation to attend these events, however, it is important to tell people on your team why you do not want to come so that they understand you.
Each autistic person has their own particularities. To be closer to her needs, you have to talk to her and understand her needs. It is also recommended (with the authorization of the autistic employee) to inform the teams of the particularities related to autism by means, for example, of an awareness by a professional.
Below is a list of tips that make it easier to understand autism in the world of work. These tips will be adapted according to the particularity and specific needs of the person.
– Assign a reference colleague within the team to facilitate communication. This reference colleague will be able to help his autistic colleague to structure his tasks and manage complicated communication situations.
– Set up an ergonomic environment corresponding to the needs of the autistic person. Some people with autism may be hyper / hyposensitive to noise, light, smells, people walking behind etc. This very often requires very simple adaptations such as desks facing the wall, permission to wear sunglasses, noise-canceling headphones, or less strict clothing outside of a specific situation,
– Help the person create a personalized « rulebook » that contains the social norms presented above, the processes, procedures and key places of his team and the company where he works. This can in particular take the form of a welcome booklet. The guide must use explicit and concrete language, with images or pictograms consistent with the text (each image must be useful for the interpretation of the message, unnecessary images “to look pretty” are likely to create confusion). The purpose of this guide is to inform people with autism about:
- All the social norms, from the most obvious to the most complex (do not interrupt someone when they are on the phone, what are the break times, how to address the different people in the team according to their rank, dress code, start and end times of work, etc.).
- The location of the main places (toilets, canteen, works council, where to collect papers and pens).
- The location of quiet places within the company, where the person could take a break and recharge their batteries without social or sensory stimulation.
- The organization chart. It is important to have pictures of the people on the team (and the company if possible), with their first names, role and name as well as how to contact them or find them on the premises.
- The “traditions” (Thursday is a team lunch, on Friday people take their turn to bring their croissants, the starting drinks are to thank the person for their work, etc.)
– Ask the autistic person and / or their job coach if they have one, their strong skills and their skills to improve, in order to see if it is possible to prioritize tasks for which the autistic person will excel ( example: Focus on technical tasks and limit formalization in the form of a slide)
– Ensure understanding of instructions, prioritization of tasks and deadlines. The autistic person may be asked to summarize the instructions to validate understanding (as is often done with non-autistic people).
– Promote sequential functioning. People with autism will be much more efficient if they have to move from task to task rather than managing multiple tasks at the same time.
– Prioritize precision and quality of deliverable over speed. An autistic person is able to provide work of at least the same quality as a non-autistic person. It is important to be clear on the deadlines, and to explain clearly whether to deliver something quickly but with some imperfections or to take a little extra time to deliver a specific job.
– Make expectations specific and quantifiable. It is important to be precise and clear about what is expected of the person with autism. For some tasks, it may be relevant to specify what would be a good job and what would be a great job.
– Encourage the use of written notes, diagrams and to-do lists so that the autistic person can have tools to note the tasks and their details, as well as the order of prioritization and the deadlines.
– If there is a performance problem, let the autistic employee know using clear, simple and explicit language. Clear and explicit feedback is essential, especially because people with autism may find it more difficult to have a precise understanding of what is expected of them when these expectations are not clear. It is generally important to give regular feedback so that the person can continue to evolve.
– The autistic person can be direct, transparent and lacking in form. Do not hesitate to give explicit and benevolent feedback.
– If there is a change of priority in the tasks for an emergency in particular, it is necessary to quickly explain to the autistic person why it is necessary to reprioritize.
– Certain attitudes of the autistic person, in particular in relation to smells, noise or light, may surprise. They can be explained by hypersensitivities or hyposensitivities. In these situations, it is important to put the person with autism in the best possible condition, as mentioned above.
– Clear, explicit and simple communication should be favored. We must therefore avoid sentences with acronyms, too long or convoluted and with abstract elements or implications. Be careful, this means that you have to speak clearly and not infantilize your way of expressing yourself.
– The autistic person may be uncomfortable in environments that require socialization outside the scope of his missions. For example, team lunches, coffee breaks, company parties or outings with colleagues are special times for integration, but for the person with autism, these events may not be suitable for him.
– To facilitate the integration of the autistic person, it is important to get to know them, and in particular, to understand what are their specific interests and passions. A person with autism will love to talk about what interests them but will make it clear when a topic is not of interest to them.
– It is very important that the autistic person feels included and not judged because he is different. People with autism have great qualities that can bring a lot to the team, but they also have specific functionalities that must be accepted and with which they must come to terms. It is of course a co-construction so that the collaboration suits everyone.
Autism and Recognition as Disabled Workers
What is recognition as a disabled worker ?
Autism is recognized as a handicap by the House of Handicapped Persons (MDPH). Thus, an autistic person is eligible for the Recognition as a Disabled Worker (RQTH). The RQTH is the administrative recognition of disability.
What are the advantages ?
RQTH is not mandatory. However, it is important because it allows:
– To benefit from schedule arrangements for medical and therapeutic appointments.
– To benefit from advantages during recruitment within certain companies. Companies are subject to a quota of 6% of employees with an RQTH. Certain recruitment policies are advantageous for people with RQTH in order to reach these quotas.
– To benefit from the implementation of workstation arrangements as recommended by occupational medicine (support, awareness of the work team, etc.)
– To access services and financial aid from AGEFIPH (The state body in charge of disabled people in a private structure) or FIFPH (The state body in charge of disabled people in a private structure) a public structure)
– To benefit from special rules in the event of termination of an employment contract, such as doubling the length of the notice of dismissal.
– Access to rehabilitation and vocational training courses in the event of incapacity for your former profession.
How to apply for his RQTH ?
To apply for his RQTH, you must complete a file to send to the departmental MDPH. The file is detailed here . If you need help, you can contact an Autism Resource Center near you. You can find them here .
When is it possible to request RQTH ?
RQTH’s application is a big step. It recognizes the handicap administratively. It is not always easy to apply for RQTH. Some people with autism will consider themselves to be disabled, others will not. The advantage of RQTH is that it protects and encourages companies to adapt the work environment to the individual’s needs.
The other difficulty is that disability can be seen as something personal that some people do not want to share with the whole company. It is important to note that the RQTH is CONFIDENTIAL. It is possible to share it only with the occupational physician, who will do what is necessary to adapt the position. There is no obligation to speak to the disability manager of the company or to human resources, even if this can help to have a daily follow-up.
Autism is recognized as a handicap by the MDPH (House of Handicapped Persons). Thus, an autistic person is eligible for the RQTH (Recognition as a Disabled Worker), which counts autistic people in the 6% quota. The person can also request their RQTH when they are employed in your company. The request takes a maximum of 6 months.
Possible arrangements to help the autistic person
– Workplace arrangements will depend mainly on the possible hypersensitivity of the autistic person (provision of an odorless room, acceptance of the wearing of sunglasses, etc.). Ask the autistic person what accommodations they need. This may relate to the dress code or to workplace accommodations.
Here are some examples (if necessary on a case-by-case basis): quiet / rest room, sunglasses, headphones, earplugs, quiet workspace, being with your back to the hallway …
– When there is a planned contact with a person outside the team (ex: trainer, client , supplier …) the interlocutor (s) can be warned before his autism if the autistic person wishes. If it is decided to inform the interlocutors of the autism diagnosis, it is essential to provide quality information and advice on autism, the autistic characteristics of the person in the job, and the effective way to collaborate with them. .
Last minute changes should be avoided whenever possible.
– Give clear and well-defined tasks in advance, which do not change every day.
– Arrangements for communication aids : ideally, tailor-made advice is provided when raising awareness among the entire team (managers and colleagues) at the start of the collaboration. Coaching can be implemented over the longer term for socialization, written communication of the work to be done
– Support: a job coach specializing in supporting people with autism may be requested. The role of the job coach is
help the autistic person to prepare for their entry into the world of work (definition of the professional project, skills assessment and link with areas of interest, preparation for interviews)
to support the autistic person and the employer during the taking up of a position (recommendations for ergonomic adjustments, implementation of good working practices) and to carry out regular employment monitoring
– Work organization adjustments: adapt schedules, allow regular teleworking if the autistic person so wishes
Emotional support : carry out training at the workplace, appoint a referent / mentor among colleagues.
II. Autism and maintenance
Before the interview
The interview is a complicated exercise, because it is an exercise where the way in which one interacts with the recruiter is important. However, you are quite capable of shining during this exercise!
Whether or not to declare autism
The declaration of autism (in the CV, in the cover letter) is your right before or during the interview. There is no obligation. Declaring your autism in the CV or cover letter allows recruiters to make the necessary arrangements during the interviews. The declaration before the interview allows you to be frank about autism and not to have to overcompensate.
If you don’t mention autism in your resume or cover letter, you can talk about it when Human Resources contacts you to schedule the interview.
The main downside is that autism is still poorly understood, and there is still a lot of prejudice. The purpose of this page is to limit prejudices.
Here you will find our guide to the declaration of disability in the business world.
Prepare for your interview
– Find out about the company (what are its activities? What are the latest news?)
– Learn about the job you are interviewing for. If available, you can read the job description and learn about the skills required and the tasks to be done.
– Ask recruiters what dress code is required. If the requested outfit does not make you comfortable, you can ask to put on an outfit that makes you comfortable.
– Ask recruiters with whom you will be interviewing. You can then find out about your contacts upstream (by looking on LinkedIn in particular).
– Ask recruiters what is the format of the interview. (Interview with a person, case study, group interview, access plan, etc.). This will allow you to prepare yourself as well as possible. You can specify that group interviews are not the best format for you.
Prepare what you are going to say about yourself
The recruiter may ask you to introduce yourself and ask you questions about your motivations, strengths and skills, and past experiences.
Introduce yourself: You can give your first name, your last name, say what studies you have done and speak in 1 sentence (20 to 30 words maximum) about one of your passions
Motivations : List a maximum of 3 reasons for your motivation. It is important to develop your motivations in 2 short sentences. These sentences can answer the question « why this motivation »)
Strengths and skills : You can list your 3 main strengths for this position. It can be your skills (in code, graphics, math etc.) or your personality traits (courageous, persevering etc.). You can illustrate these strengths with an example each time
Past experiences : The employer will ask you to present 1 or 2 experiences that you have had. This can be professional, associative, sports or student experiences (university project). For each experience you can
- describe what you did
- describe the result of what you did
- describe what you have learned and learned from your work.
Talk about autism during the interview
Talking about your autism is very personal. Being able to talk about it with a recruiter can:
- Create a bond with the recruiter. You share something very personal. You share part of your vulnerability. It’s something that touches people and creates a bond beyond the interview
- Help recruiters understand you better and understand autism.
When to talk about it:
At the start of the interview or at the end of the interview
How to talk about it:
– Factually: say what it means for you in terms of skills and difficulties
– Positively: say it factually, adding a sentence about what autism brings to you. Autism allows you to develop a lot of skills that can be very useful in the world of work.
In an interview, it is often difficult to get past a difference such as autism. If the person has been interviewed, it means that they have a profile that meets your expectations. Despite all the skills that can be read on their CVs, we tend to favor candidates without disabilities over different candidates.
First and foremost, the candidate must be told that if he has a disability, he can share it upstream, and this is important so that the interview is adapted and the recruiter can prepare and obtain information.
Here are some avenues to prepare before the interview to judge the candidate as objectively as possible:
– Before taking the candidate ‘s autism into account, does he have the necessary skills for the position ?
– Can we adapt the position to his autism ? See the layout section.
– Can the tasks be done differently? Some tasks of the position can be performed just as well by the autistic person if an approach corresponding to his specificities is allowed.
– Are the skills hampered by autism outweighed by those that autism develops ? During the interview, ask positive questions about autism (the biggest wins with autism, what autism can bring, for example). This will have a benefit for you, because it will allow you to understand autism as something other than a constraint, and for the candidate, who will be put in confidence and reassured.
Certain actions can also be taken before the interview :
- Pay attention to the format of the interviews (group interviews may not be suitable).
- Reserve a room with a minimum of noise, odorless and natural, light lighting. The easiest way is to ask the candidate for the necessary arrangements if possible.
- Send an email which presents the format of the interviews with the plan (presentation of the course, motivation questions, technical questions, English tests etc.), the duration, the people present.
During the interview
– Be at the interview 10 minutes early.
– Put your phone on silent.
– Do not rush to answer a question, take your time. Keep the flow steady and calm. It shows that you have confidence in yourself. Don’t hesitate to say, “I need to take my time”.
– If a question is not clear, you can ask the other person to rephrase it so that it is clearer for you.
– You must not cut off your interlocutor during the interview
– Pay attention to your non-verbal language (expression of the face, hands, body, and tone of voice):
- Verbalize your behavioral and / or clothing difference. You have to explain why you have an accessory that is unusual (example: sunglasses to attenuate the light). You must also explain why in an interview you can have a particular attitude (example: you can hold hands because it relaxes you).
- As far as possible, look at your interlocutor in order to show him your attention in relation to your exchange (you can alternate for example 15 seconds in the eyes, 3 seconds beside).
- Sit in a straight manner with your feet on the floor.
- Pay attention to your hands. Put them on the table if there is one or on your thighs. You can also use your hands to illustrate what you are saying.
- Be careful not to make a face with your face.
– Take an interest in what his disability has allowed him to do . The lived adventures are a gold mine to get to know the person and discover all his skills. Be careful, some people will be less open on this subject, in this case, respect their restraint.
– Remember to be transparent with the interlocutor . If he talks about his autism, you have to be honest about the company’s position when it comes to recruiting. If doubts remain, it is possible to ask the candidate for examples of situations similar to those he will encounter on the job.
– If you think the person has autism but don’t dare say so, you can ask if the person has RQTH . You can make the person feel comfortable and show that disability is not a taboo. However, it is not legal to ask a person if they have a specific disability.
– Do not base your impression on autism, but on the whole discussion with the autistic person .
Autism specific advice
– Ask closed questions and avoid open questions . It will be clearer to the candidate. For example, the question “introduce yourself” is vague and the candidate will not be what you want to know. A better question would be “Can you tell me about the university where you studied – specialties and an important project, your professional experiences by identifying each time 2 tasks, and how you accomplished them”.
– Ask questions about a current / past experience and avoid hypothetical or abstract questions, which will not be clear to the candidate. For example, instead of “How will you deal with frequent interruptions at work?” Prefer “How did you deal with frequent interruptions in your previous job? ”
– Prepare to push the candidate to get all the information you need.
– Be aware that the candidate can interpret questions or discussions literally.
– Non-verbal functioning may be restricted or non-existent in the autistic person. Likewise, the autistic person may not understand the non-verbal language of his interlocutor.
III. Autism at work
Daily work is made up of professional tasks, as well as all formal and informal exchanges between colleagues. Autism can thus prove to be a real challenge, both for colleagues and for the person themselves.
Autism can surprise uninformed people. Even though it’s difficult, it’s important to talk about your Autism. Your difference can be felt, which is why it is important to explain why you are different. Saying it verbally is complicated because it’s sharing something (very) personal with a stranger. It should be noted that each person is unique. If you have any needs that are not in the list below, do not hesitate to communicate them.
Inform about your autism
You can inform your company about your autism through different channels (written or oral) and different people (human resources, manager, colleague etc.).
– You can inform one of your colleagues, your manager or a human resources person in writing (chat, email). You can explain in 3 lines what autism means for you and share this page.
– If you don’t want to share it with your whole team, you can first talk to one of your colleagues, a manager or someone from human resources.
– During a first meeting, at the beginning of the exchange , you can indicate that you are an autistic person. You can take 2 short examples with a concrete situation (1 sentence for each), which explain what being autistic involves.
– Talk about the positive side of your autism. This peculiarity can have a positive contribution, when the company encourages people with autism to do the things that make them different and in which they are excellent . This can be a real asset in business. You can take a real life example where you have achieved something because of your autism.
– You can also ask for accommodations that make you comfortable: specify why you prefer to dress in a certain way (example: wear sunglasses to reduce the light, wear noise-canceling headphones), indicate the environment in which you need to be (example: an environment without noise or an environment without odor. There are of course many other situations.), make known your needs in terms of daily work (tools for taking notes, for task management, etc.), limit situations of social interactions that are not essential .
Some people will come to work with you every day. Giving them precise information on autism and above all, your autism, will allow them to better understand your difference and facilitate daily collaboration. To educate your team, you can:
– Share this page.
– Offer a presentation to your team. It can be done by someone from the outside, by someone from the company, or by yourself if you wish.
Assert yourself at work :
The world of work is demanding. Autism involves thriving in this world with a difference. Don’t be shy about saying what’s bothering you or asking because if you don’t, no one will do it for you. It is true that it is often quite complicated, but you should not hesitate because it is your right.
– Some tasks may not be assigned to a person with autism because his colleagues may find that these will be more complicated. If there are specific things you want to do that you think you have the skills to do, clearly ask your manager.
– If you wish to speak but you are unable to do so, communicate it, either in the meeting chat or orally, even if it means interrupting the meeting for a short time.
Autism can surprise uninformed people. It can also have an impact on social life that should not be forgotten. If the person with autism interacts in a different way, it may be due to their autism. It may be important to take this into account in teamwork. It should be noted that each person is unique. The most important thing is to understand the needs of your autistic employee in order to support them as well as possible.
– Allow the autistic person to talk about their autism and what it means for them, if they wish. Not everyone is comfortable in this situation.
– Distribute the first informative part of this guide to all team members.
Communication with the autistic person
– The effort must come from both parties. It is better to be on the initiative and not hesitate to communicate with the autistic person. If there are points to improve in his professional attitude, in his way of working and other points which seem essential to you. However, you must be aware that some aspects cannot be changed.
– A person with autism should not benefit from special treatment, he should be evaluated like any other collaborator.
– If there is a performance problem, bring it to the attention of the employee with autism using clear and explicit language.
– Check the understanding of the tasks by asking for a summary of the explanations.
– Make expectations specific and quantifiable.
– Speaking in a meeting for someone with autism is not always easy. In order to let him have his place, you can ask his opinion or offer to speak when it seems coherent to you.
– Remember that what looks like a behavior or attitude problem is usually a communication problem. Don’t accept rude remarks or social gaffes. Clarify the individual’s intentions. Be specific in pointing out inappropriate or unacceptable behavior. Conversely, do not hesitate to let your autistic employee know that you are satisfied with this or that attitude.
Tips for organizing and framing the work
– Help the individual create a personalized « rule book » that contains the processes, procedures and key places of his team and the company where he works. This can in particular take the form of a welcome booklet.
– Encourage the use of written notes, diagrams, and to-do lists. Icons and color classification systems will aid in the organization. People with autism are more sensitive to the visuals than to the visuals.
Evolve at work
Finding a job and integrating into the professional world are the first steps in a great adventure. There are several key steps that follow:
– Validate the trial period
– Be evaluated on the work done
– Being promoted
Working with a person with autism is working with a person who functions differently than a person without autism. She is just as competent, but with strengths and weaknesses that differ from the norm. Many tips and arrangements were offered in the first part. What is at stake is that people with autism can be assessed fairly at key stages. Thus, it is conceivable to achieve less on certain aspects (in particular the interpersonal aspects) but more on other aspects (in particular the technical aspects).
In an era when automation, specialization and innovation are essential to many industries, these skills can prove to be valuable and are highly valued. Indeed, typically autistic skills are of the order of systematization (logical analyzes, attention to detail, pattern recognition). These systematization skills are combined with great creativity thanks to their so-called “lateral” or “out-of-the-box” thinking.
– Attention to detail and sustained concentration : people with autism have the ability to spot errors, are precise, do not let themselves be distracted from the task at hand. This skill is key in a world where every detail counts and can represent real added value for the company.
– Long-term memory : on their favorite subjects, people with autism have the ability to remember facts and details that others have forgotten. This memory, especially in detail, can be very useful for having an exhaustive vision of a complex problem, making the link between the different elements of a situation and proposing better solutions.
– Tolerance, even appetite for repetition and routine : This is a superior ability of non-autistic people to perform repetitive tasks, even the most complex, more and more efficiently and quickly. This superior ability to show increasing accuracy, speed and focus has been proven, for example, in the analysis of x-ray machines at airports. This ability allows people with autism to be precise and efficient on these essential tasks, which are often prone to inattentive errors for people without autism.
– Strong logical and analytical skills : people with autism instinctively perceive recurrences, patterns, laws and connections that govern clusters of data / information (pattern recognition). This is called pattern recognition. These analytical skills help to better understand the complex problems that companies face. Coupling these analytical skills with their excellent grasp of detail makes it possible to identify overlooked opportunities. Moreover, their analysis of the facts is purely based on the rational, the concrete. Thus, their pragmatic advice is invaluable in business, because it is little influenced by affects, the social, the “political”.
– Very advanced expertise : their tendency to develop so-called “specific”, polarized and very invested interests, quickly makes them experts on their favorite subjects. This ability to develop in-depth knowledge and expertise can be extremely useful in a specialization-based mode.
– Creative thinking : people with autism process information in a different way, atypical at the cognitive level, which can lead to new solutions.
– Perseverance : in their areas of predilection, people with autism have a higher capacity for concentration. They are extremely persistent and can commit many hours to a task.
The release of these skills requires a so-called « autism-friendly » environment, where the autistic person has their place, where they are not sidelined by their difference, and where teams are sensitized and prepared for collaboration. These skills will vary from one individual to another. These are the most common skills among people with autism, but that does not imply that all people with autism will have all of these skills.
It is also important to keep in mind that no one can be defined by autism, which is only one cognitive characteristic among a whole host of factors that influence each person’s personality: culture, education, experiences. … it is a person with a personal experience, which allows him to develop skills which are specific to him and which are out of the ordinary.
Likewise, keep in mind that everyone’s adaptability is scalable: it is not because today an individual is disabled in a certain situation, that he will be disabled throughout his career.
The condition for developing these skills is the acceptance of the difference, whether it is one’s own or that of a colleague. The crucial thing is not to limit the responsibilities of the person with autism because they have autism. On the contrary, she must be given the opportunity to go further if she wishes, without forcing it.
Autism at work beyond prejudice
A person with autism can achieve even the most “unrealistic” dreams. Of course, the path will be more winding, but the difficulties encountered, whether or not they are linked to autism, are also part of the richness of the person’s journey, of his project and of the people around him.
Some people with autism are brilliant scientists, others are business leaders (the creator of Pokémon is autistic), others are artists or actors. Some people with autism feel limited by their difference, by the way they understand it and how our society represents it.
By going beyond prejudices, we allow people who are often stigmatized to have the right to dream and achieve their ambitions. The challenge today is to provide our society with skills that we have ignored for too long. We focus on what is not possible to do, while we can be interested in what actions can be done in a different way, and the added value of these “different ways”.
Temple Grandin, one of the greatest animal scientists in history, autistic and committed to autism, shares her point of view: “I always find it funny that people without autism say that children with autism live. in their own little world. When you work with animals for a while, you start to realize that the same can be said about normal people. There is a big, beautiful world out there that many people barely understand. Autistic people and animals see a whole register of the visual world that normal people cannot, or do not want to see. «