Asperger�s Syndrome and Employment

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					A Melmacian in the Workplace

    Asperger’s Syndrome and
          Chris Mitchell
People with Asperger’s Syndrome may have good
skills/qualifications, but often find they can’t use
them through lack of social skills/awareness:
• Interviews - a person with Asperger’s Syndrome can
  have difficulty with the social skills required to be
  successful at a job interview
• Acceptance - a person with Asperger’s Syndrome
  may be seen as an easy target for harassment and
  isolation from colleagues
• Understanding - potential employers can sometimes
  feel ‘threatened’ as a person with Asperger’s
  Syndrome might appear ‘different’
     Benefits of a Diagnosis
 A formal Asperger’s Syndrome diagnosis can
 be beneficial to both employees with the
 condition and potential employers:
• Can help the person with Asperger’s Syndrome
  identify strengths and weaknesses appropriately
• Mention of condition on job applications can avoid
  discrimination against candidate, especially if
  employers have the Positive About Disabled People
• Can also help employers understand condition if they
  are prepared to listen and can work with candidate to
  make adjustments where necessary
    Adults with Asperger’s
   Syndrome in Employment
In short, the situation regarding adults with adults with
Asperger’s Syndrome in employment is:

• A low percentage (around 10-12 percent) are in full-
  time paid employment
• Many in full-time paid employment are in jobs that do
  not use their skills
• Few employed Asperger’s Syndrome adults are in
  permanent employment, often on temporary

                            Source: National Autistic Society
  An Asperger Employment
Recent problems experienced by an Asperger’s
Syndrome employee:
• I applied for a lower grade job purposely to ease
  myself back into employment but they gave me a
  high grade job which left me under attack from all
• My support worker disappeared as soon as I’d got
  the job, which made maintaining the job much harder
• Few co-workers understood me
     Issues in the Workplace
Work issues that can be confusing for Asperger
Syndrome employees include:
• Authority Figures – An employee with Asperger
  Syndrome may not grasp social hierachy in the
  workplace, which can be mistaken for ignorance
• Staff Meetings – Often an employee with Asperger
  Syndrome may want to put across a point or idea in
  this situation, but may have difficulty in recognising
  when to speak
• Dress Codes – This can be a confusing issue for an
  Asperger Syndrome employee, such as knowing
  when to dress smart (e.g. board meetings) or casual
  (physical work such as lifting)
A person with Asperger Syndrome can experience
high levels of anxiety in certain situations:
• In roles run off own time-management, where there is
  no clear start, finish or lunch hour.
• When given a task that the person hasn’t been
  trained on or hasn’t previously undertaken
• In organisations where each individual has their own
  agenda (e.g. the media, insurance). Conflict this can
  create can lead to anxiety
• In posts that are temporary/contract-based, where
  employee can become anxious about contract
         Potential Strengths
However, Asperger’s Syndrome employees can have
some notable strengths:
• Punctuality – from their preference for routine an
  Asperger Syndrome Employee can be very reliable
• Eye for detail – can often remember small detail,
  while others remember plot/structure
• May have specialist knowledge in a particular field
  (e.g. local history)
• A team situation can often benefit from inclusion of
  an Asperger Syndrome employee, especially if they
  can display such strengths. Their individual
  contribution can enhance a work/project if listened to.
        Potential Solutions I
Suggestions to help an Asperger’s Syndrome
candidate into a job include:
 • To identify a suitable position for an employee, an
   aptitude test may be beneficial. This can also help
   identify the candidate’s strengths/skills so they can
   be put to good use
 • Employers could discuss with the candidate about
   any necessary arrangements to enable the candidate
   to perform their job better (e.g. a workspace not too
   close to colleagues)
 • So that the candidate can get used to their place of
   work and their employer, a probationary/trial period
   may help. This would also help the candidate find out
   if a role is suitable or unsuitable for them
       Potential Solutions II
Suggestions to help an Asperger Syndrome employee
keep a job and generally feel secure:
• Potential employers could be informed about
  Asperger’s Syndrome and the difficulties the
  Asperger’s Syndrome employee may experience
• To avoid anxiety, a timetabled routine with clear start
  and finish times and lunch break would be beneficial
• A ‘buddy system’ could be employed to avoid
  isolation and potential harassment/conflict. Access to
  a support worker would also be beneficial
• On-the-job training can be beneficial, as the
  Asperger’s Syndrome employee may have difficulty
  applying college-based training to the workplace
            Training Issues
An employee with Asperger’s Syndrome ability to
focus may be very different to others:
• When absorbing training, an employee with
  Asperger’s Syndrome may be ‘one-channel’ with their
  ability to focus, often struggling to understand the
  ‘bigger picture’
• Don’t expect an employee with Asperger’s Syndrome
  to master skills as quickly as others
• Don’t expect them to multi-task easily, as the
  Asperger’s Syndrome employee may have difficulty
  transferring skills from one area to another
          Training Methods
Some suggested training methods for employees
with Asperger’s Syndrome include:
• Use ‘chunk’ information – Break the job down into
  simple tasks, explaining each part, before showing
  how all tasks demonstrated link in with one another.
  Use of visual aids to show links can also be useful
• Acting out tasks – Acting out how to do different
  tasks within a job can help the person learn (e.g.
  franking mail, talking to customers etc.)
• Repeat Tasks – Encourage employee to repeat
  tasks once they have learned them, so they will
  become second nature
• Give positive feedback – including helping
  employee recognise mistakes where necessary
    Personal and Professional
         Development I
Employees with Asperger’s Syndrome may have difficulty coming
to terms with the unwritten skills of social behaviour/intercatrion
on the workplace:
     • Define Good and Bad Behaviour – Assume you are talking to
       someone who has just arrived from Mars. Be explicit as possible
       as it is often small behaviours that are rarely noticed that make
       differences e.g.
         Good – smiling at people
         Bad – gossiping excessively
     • Maintaining Professional Behaviour – get employee to realise
       appropriate professional behaviour is on the agenda, focusing
       on the impact behaviours may have on colleagues and
       customers. Where possible, offer rewards for adhering to the
       behaviour code.
        Personal and Professional
             Development II
    A person with Asperger’s Syndrome may have very different
    professional and personal values to their colleagues. Some
    strategies for the person to help colleagues understand
•    Look at what you do – Observe yourself and how you act, including how
     you treat your colleagues and customers. Allow complete honesty over
     reasons you have in your mind for why you took one action over another
•    Ask others for feedback – Find out what colleagues (those who work
     closely with) think you may value
•    Reflect – Bring together findings from your feedback and find out how
     your values relate to what your colleagues expect of you. If your values
     differ from what colleagues expect from you, show them your values are
     real through your behaviour, within the boundaries of professionalism
  Developing Good Practice I
Recommendations to develop fairer access to employment
for people on the autistic spectrum include:
 • Personalisation of services – Different individuals
   on the autistic spectrum have different individual
   needs in the recruitment stage, looking at where
   adjustments can be made
 • Internship schemes and/or work trials – If a
   candidate on the autistic spectrum has limited
   experience of employment, an internship or work trial
   with a potential employer can help the candidate gain
   an understanding of a particular role
  Developing Good Practice II
Further recommendations from the UK National Adult
Autism Strategy to strengthen understanding in working
cultures include:
 • Equality and Diversity - Autism/Asperger’s
     Syndrome to be included within Equality and
     Diversity policies to promote awareness and
     tolerance within organisations, including abolition of
     pre-employment questionnaires
 • Training – Employment services (e.g. JobCentre
     Plus) to have mandatory training on
     Autism/Asperger’s Syndrome in accordance with the
     Disability Equality Duty 2006 to both managers and
     colleagues of an employee with Asperger’s
 Developing Good Practice III
Some recommendations to help adults with Asperger’s
Syndrome keep a job and access support where needed
  • Access to support from a support worker in a working
     environment, whether paid or unpaid, where needed,
     without cut off points
  • Adults with Asperger’s Syndrome to get the support
     and guidance they may need to from the benefits
     system (e.g. tax credits, disability pension) to ensure
     financial stability
  • Access to learning/training opportunities to further
     their career and fulfil their potential
     Good Practice Examples
The National Autistic Society (NAS) Prospects Supported
Employment works with employers to provide internship
opportunities for candidates on the autistic spectrum
 • British Telecom BT – Have worked with Prospects
   to develop a more Asperger-friendly recruitment
   process, when interviewing focusing on closed rather
   than abstract/hypothetical questions
 • Goldman Sachs – Offers up to four internships for
   Prospects clients annually, many of whom have gone
   on to secure permanent employment
           Potential Benefits
Some ways in which employers have benefited from in
employing people with Asperger’s Syndrome include:
 "It helps to breed tolerance in the workplace".

 "Fosters team culture and a culture of cooperation".
 Goldman Sachs

 "If you can create an opportunity to employ lots of different
 people, you get their unique perspectives, you get much
 better depth in the kind of products and services you
 develop. You get much better interaction with your
 customers ".
 British Telecom
We are not Unemployable!

 Given the chance in a position that matches their
 skills/qualifications, people diagnosed with
 Asperger’s Syndrome are capable of performing
 just as well as others. All we ask for is to be
 listened to so that potential employers understand
 our condition better.
    Issues for Frontline Staff
Some examples of where Autism and Asperger’s
Syndrome are still very poorly understood include:

•   Police and Criminal Justice
•   Legal Profession
•   Banking and Financial Services
•   Sales – including Estate Agents and Car
    Issues for Frontline Staff
Some issues for frontline staff from these areas of work
to be aware of when dealing with a person with
Autism/Asperger’s Syndrome include:
  • Misunderstandings of social cues
     Many people with Autism/Asperger’s Syndrome may have
      problems with eye-contact. Depending on the individual,
      eye-contact may be either absent, prolonged or intrusive
 • Social Naivety
     Some people with Autism/Asperger’s Syndrome, concerned
      about what is the right thing to do may respond in a way that
      others find difficult to understand
     May become over-compliant when interviewed and find
      themselves agreeing with suggestions that are untrue. They
      may not realise the consequences of this action for
      themselves and others
 Are people with Asperger’s
  Syndrome likely to come
into contact with the Police?
• The vast majority of people with Asperger’s
  Syndrome are intentionally law-abiding citizens, often
  in relation to the nature of their condition
• However, when people with Asperger’s Syndrome
  come to the attention of the police it can often be a
  result of their social naivety
    Interpretation of Asperger
Asperger behaviour can often be misinterpreted
due to its often ‘unusual’ influences:
  • A person with Asperger’s Syndrome’s behaviour
    could be influence by:
     – Sudden changes in their routine
     – Misunderstanding of social cues

  • In such cases their behaviour could be misinterpreted
    and subsequent actions may escalate the situation
  Asperger’s Syndrome and
       Social Naivety
 Due to difficulties with flexible thinking, a person
 with asperger’s Syndrome can often be an easy
 target to unintentionally being involved in a crime:

• A person with Asperger’s Syndrome, through
  gullibility, can sometimes find themselves unwittingly
  becoming an accomplice to crime
• More often, a person with Asperger’s Syndrome can
  be vulnerable to criminal acts because of their social
  Asperger’s Syndrome and
       Social Naivety
 Due to difficulties with flexible thinking, a person
 with asperger’s Syndrome can often be an easy
 target to unintentionally being involved in a crime:

• A person with Asperger’s Syndrome, through
  gullibility, can sometimes find themselves unwittingly
  becoming an accomplice to crime
• More often, a person with Asperger’s Syndrome can
  be vulnerable to criminal acts because of their social
 Representation of a person
 with Asperger’s Syndrome
• It is possible for miscarriages of justice to occur and it
  is therefore vital that legal experts and professionals
  (e.g. lawyers, barristers, judges) are are familiar with
  Autism/Asperger’s Syndrome and its complexities.
• Appropriate support needs to be in place in order that
  victims are understood and appropriately
• If a person with Asperger’s Syndrome becomes
  involved with the criminal justice system, they may
  benefit from access to a professional (e.g. a
  psychologist) who understands their condition
The National Autistic Society
(UK) have developed in
consultation with adults with
Autism (including Asperger’s
Syndrome) the Autism Alert card.
The card can be carried by a
person diagnosed with autism
and enables them to identify their
needs in different situations (e.g.
railway station, supermarket etc.)
Suggestions from the text of the Autism Alert card on
how to handle a person with Autism include:
• First explain what you are going to do and make sure
  they understand
• Use clear simple language with short sentences
• Ask specific, unambiguous questions
• Avoid irony, sarcasm or metaphors
• Allow the person extra time to think about or act on
  what you said
• Remember that if he or she is avoiding eye contact,
  this does not imply shiftiness or disrespectfulness.

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