Personal story about adults with Asperger's syndrome


Many people are not aware that often there are laws stating that employers must make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. While this does not apply in all countries, or possibly not in all States, it is worth checking out if you are on the autism spectrum and having trouble at work, even if you don't like being labeled as "having a disability".


'Auties' and 'aspies' can be brilliant workers

People with Autism or Asperger's will face issues that cause problems at work. However, we also have strengths, some of which may be incredible focus, eye for detail, not wasting time socializing and dedication. Employers can reap these benefits for possibly the small cost of making some accommodations. Even better, governments are realizing this and slowly introducing laws where a person with a disability can't be sacked until the employer has shown reasonable attempts to make accommodations for someone's disability. Check the legal situation in your area.


These laws are not obviously there to keep you in a job when you are completely hopeless at it. But if you are good at your job, you might be hampered by sensory problems: too much noise in the office, the hum of the air conditioner, a chaotic messy environment and other things that can drive us crazy! These laws state that an employer should make reasonable efforts to minimize conditions that affect our disability. Even when these laws don't exist, you can talk with your employer about simple accommodations that enable you to work more effectively.

When considering accommodations for someone on the autism spectrum, it is important to remember that this process must be conducted on a case by case basis with input from the individual. The important questions are:
• What are the limitations the individual is experiencing?
• To what degree do these limitations affect the person and their performance?
• What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
• Has the individual been consulted regarding accommodation needs?
• What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems?
• Is the person consulted on effectiveness of existing accommodations and to determine if others are needed?


Examples of accommodation

These are actual examples of how accommodations were made for various disabilities.


A police officer, returning to work following surgery for a brain aneurysm, had partial paralysis to the left side and could no longer use both hands for word processing. Transferring to a vacant position that involved computer research accommodated him and he was provided a one handed keyboard.

A professional whose work required the use of a computer returned to work following a brain injury. As a result of his injury he was unable to read past the midline when reading from left to right. Accommodation suggestions included: changing the margin settings of his word processing program for 80 to 40 to limit right side reading, or to purchase software that would that can split the computer screen left to right and black out the right side; redesign his workstation to place equipment on the left; and provide task lighting.


A nurse on the autism spectrum was always getting staff offside because she appeared to be uncaring and arrogant in her social interactions with other staff. Her supervisor provided constructive feedback on the nurse's social interactions, and with the nurse's permission, explained the underlying issues to other staff. The situation improved dramatically as staff understood their colleague better, and she was able to start modifying her social interactions to appear less abrasive to others.

A laborer with Asperger's was working in a noisy factory had difficulty concentrating on job tasks. Accommodation suggestions included: erecting sound absorbing barriers around his work station, moving unnecessary equipment from the area to reduce traffic and allowing the employee to wear a headset or ear plugs.

For those of us on the autism spectrum, plenty of it will come down things like sensory problems. Our concentration and inner peace can be shattered by workplace disorder, others chattering or the hideous pitch of the photocopier's whining. Typical accommodations would be reducing distractions in the work area by providing space enclosures or a private office, and allowing for use of white noise or environmental sound machines. Let the employee play soothing music using a headset. Increase natural lighting (or decrease it!) and reduce clutter in the employee’s work environment. The employer can attain a basic understanding of autie issues and be supportive if ;sudden changes throw us off course, or we get buried in too much detail and miss the big picture.


Working effectively with supervisors

Provide positive praise and reinforcement .Written job instructions and clear expectations of responsibilities and the consequences of not meeting them are very helpful to us, we typically love precise boundaries in black and white!


Allow for open communication to supervisors and establish written long-term and short-term goals. Develop strategies to deal with problems before they arise and develop a procedure to evaluate the strategies' effectiveness.

Recognize that a change in the office environment or of supervisors may be difficult for a person on the autism spectrum. Keep open channels of communication between the employee and the new and old supervisor in order to ensure an effective transition. Provide weekly or monthly meetings with the employee to discuss workplace issues.


If there is legislation in your area for this kind of thing, I'm not suggesting you sue your employer for all their worth. But if they do refuse to make reasonable accommodations, you may have the law on your side in claiming discrimination against someone with a disability because they wouldn't take a few easy, low cost steps to help you work more efficiently.


Close this personal story on Asperger's syndrome and employment

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Click here to read more personal stories from parents of children on the autism spectrum, and from adults living with Autism, Asperger's syndrome and other Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Autism Spectrum Disorders mean an individual will see the world in a different way - there is literally a different kind of wiring in the brain. A smart employer can make accommodations that allow a worker on the autism spectrum to maximize the benefits of this different world view, and minimize the issues it causes.