Published On: June 14, 2024

by Marjorie Duryea, Director of Employment Programs, Easterseals Crossroads

Individuals with autism can and do live fulfilling lives as vibrant members of a community. According to the CDC, about 1 in 36 children living in the United States has autism. Children with autism become adults with autism.

Adults with autism enter the workforce regularly and make significant contributions to the mission and goals of an employer. It is with this outlook that we recognize and promote the differences of all individuals with or without disabilities to maximize our strength as a community that values diversity and inclusion.

Support for Individuals with Autism from Easterseals Crossroads

Support for individuals living with autism begins at an early age. Easterseals Crossroads can help identify the diagnosis of autism as a young child and provide foundational therapy programs to create the path and structure to gain confidence, independence and skills for success.
As an adolescent, a person with autism can benefit from our high school transition programs and our college internship program for students with autism can pave the way toward future employment.

As a young adult, a person with autism can benefit from our employment programs to learn about career interests, skills and opportunities. We provide resources, structure and opportunities to maximize independence for a fulfilling life.

Supporting Individuals with Autism in the Workplace

The Interview
During an interview, if an applicant mentions that he/she has autism, don’t focus the conversation on limitations. You can ask the individual if he or she requires any specific accommodation.

When discussing necessary accommodations for a person with autism you simply need to focus on factors that will facilitate success on the job. Most of these are free, easy and require minimal changes in the work environment.

General interviewing tips/techniques can help make an interview more productive and meaningful for any potential employee – with or without a disability.

  • Allow plenty of time after you ask a question as some individuals with autism may require additional time to relay or process information.
  • Allow the individual to have an advocate or support person with him or her when requested but direct your questions and comments directly to the individual being interviewed.
  • Listen attentively when you are talking with a person who has difficulty keeping the conversation on track and guide her/him back to your question.
  • Be patient and wait for the person to finish speaking rather than correcting the person or speaking for him or her.
  • Ask short questions that require short answers when possible.
  • Do not pretend to understand. Instead, repeat what you believe was said and allow the person to respond.
  • If an individual is having extreme difficulty answering a question, suggest writing a response or revisiting the question later.
  • Do not assume a flat affect or lack of eye contact means someone is not interested in what you are saying.

After the Hire
Once a person with autism becomes an employee, there are ways to smooth the transition. This begins with open communication and clear direction as to expectations. The immediate supervisor of the person with autism might find it helpful to spend time outside of the typical training to include basic office dynamics and protocol.

Individuals with autism are often very literal and see through a lens of black and white with no gray area; this can lead to misunderstandings in the workplace. Remember this when providing instructions and speaking with your employee with autism.

Most work environments have unwritten or unspoken rules; try to identify yours and make them clear to your employee with autism.

Clarity is very important when training, delegating and providing instruction. Don’t assume your employee with autism will pick up information that is implied and not stated clearly.

If your employee with autism chooses not to participate in social gatherings in or outside of the office, don’t be offended. Social gatherings may be confusing and anxiety provoking for a person with autism. Spending time alone may be this individual’s best way to relax, recharge and prepare for the duties of the job.

Setting up your employee with autism for success in the workplace is not that different from an employee without autism. You simply need to focus on getting to know and understand the individual and assign duties that maximize their strengths, and abilities and avoid tasks in areas where they will struggle.

For more information about hiring individuals with autism, contact us.