Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is just that, a spectrum. And as such, it is not accurate to assume there are behaviors that apply to all diagnosed with it. But if we look at characteristics common among those diagnosed with ASD, we are able to gain an understanding of it, and can work to make an environment where everyone can thrive.
Here are 4 simple ways to make your office ASD-friendly that will benefit your entire organization:
- Clearly define expectations: Often individuals with ASD are “black-and-white” thinkers. They can’t always interpret more nuanced, passive communication. Because of this, clearly defining what is expected and what success looks like, can benefit their effectiveness. And by alleviating the ambiguity of expectations for all employees, businesses will find opportunities for greater accountability and positive outcomes.
- Create a less distracting work environment: Individuals with ASD can be acutely affected by the work environment. This means that florescent light, or subtly buzzing machinery, or an odd smell emanating from the break room can become a distraction. A person on the spectrum will quickly and honestly communicate any of these distractions, while a neuro-typical worker will suffer from them in silence or in ignorance until their effects on productivity or mood becomes apparent.
- Create an opportunity for safe, clear, communication: ASD is often referred to as a social disability, and with it come challenges to navigating the social environment most take for granted. By creating a workplace where everyone can feel safe communicating, all employees will feel more inclined to speak up, and know their communication will be received and appreciated. This will result in a transparent culture, a trusting workforce, and an increase in company loyalty. This can also result in more frequent procedural innovation.
- Focus on strengths: Too often, we assess performance to improve upon weaknesses instead of working to reinforce strengths. This creates an expectation on the employee to “fix” themselves so they more closely align with expectations. By focusing on strengths, and areas where the employees excel, we can feel confident that the individual is in the right seat. Instead of covering a weakness they are embracing a strength.
We can move beyond our notion that individuals on the spectrum face work challenges that are unique only to them. When we do, these simple changes can lead to opportunities for all of us to be more productive (and happier) members of our organizations.