ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) & Aspergers Disability Assistance

To help everyone…

Workplace Accommodations

Employees with ASDs will generally qualify for legal protection from discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  This requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to enable the employee to perform her or his job.   Most employees will require few if any formal accommodations.  The types of adaptations which might be useful include the following, drawn largely from a list by the National Autistic Society of England.

  • When evaluating job candidates, recognize that they may not give a good indication of their skills in a job interview.   People on the spectrum often do not interview well due to their difficulty with social interaction.  Consider other means of evaluating candidates’ abilities.
  • Make sure instructions are concise and specific.  Try to give the person clear instructions right from the start about exactly how to carry out each task, from start to finish.  Don’t assume the person will infer your meaning from informal directions.  Provide instructions in writing, not just orally.  It can be helpful to ask the person to repeat back instructions so you are sure they have understood.
  • Create a work environment which is well-structured.  Assist with prioritizing activities, organizing tasks into a timetable for daily, weekly, and monthly activities, and breaking larger tasks into small steps.   Some employees will appreciate precise information about start and finish times, and help getting into a routine with breaks and lunches.
  • Clarify expectations of the job.  You may need to be more explicit about your expectations for a staff member with an ASD.   In addition to the job description, you may need to explain the etiquette and unwritten rules of the workplace.
  • Provide sensitive but direct feedback.  Make sure it is honest, constructive, and consistent.   If the person completes a task incorrectly, don’t allude to or imply any problems – instead, explain tactfully but clearly why it is wrong, check that they have understood, and set out exactly what they should do instead.   Be aware that the person is likely to have been bullied in the past, so be sensitive in giving criticism and give positive feedback wherever appropriate.
  • Regularly review performance.  As with any employee, managers should have regular one-to-one meetings with the person to discuss and review performance and give overall comments and suggestions.  When managing a person with an ASD, brief, frequent reviews may be better than longer sessions at less frequent intervals.
  • Provide training and monitoring. When a person with an ASD starts a job or takes on new responsibilities, clear and structured training is invaluable. This can be provided informally on the job, by a manager, colleagues or a mentor, or may take the form of more formal training.
  • Provide a mentor or buddy in the workplace – an empathetic colleague who is willing to provide support, advice, and assistance with integrating socially into the workplace.
  • Offer reassurance in stressful situations.  People with an ASD can be quite meticulous, and may become anxious if their performance is not perfect.   Let them know you expect they will make mistakes and that it’s not a problem if they occasionally arrive late due to transport problems or other unpreventable factors.
  • Appreciate the employee’s sensory sensitivities and allow her or him to make adjustments such as wearing earphones, changing the type of light bulb, or taking breaks from situations of high sensory input such as loud noises or strong odors.
  • Be aware that eye contact can overload the employee’s sensory system and do not misinterpret a lack of eye contact as disrespect or inattention.
  • Accommodate to the employee’s need for predictability and routine.  When possible, provide forewarning of any changes and allow the employee time to adjust and transition.
  • Give clear and direct feedback to the employee if he or she behaves in ways that seem disrespectful or are inappropriate to the situation (such as interrupting others, publically “correcting” a manager, or making a distasteful joke).
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