April 21, 2015

Autistic Accommodation

autistic accommodation word cloud on OneQuarterMama.ca copyright 2015
word cloud with terms concerning disability and workplace accommodation

This is an excerpt from my post on LinkedIn, geared towards allaying the fears employers may have when it concerns employing Autistic people.

If you're in a workplace with more than 10 people, odds are high there's an Autistic person amongst you. You might not know it. They might not even know it! However, with more awareness and better diagnostic criteria, we're coming out of the woodwork and being more open and productive members of society. 
We've always been here - the quirky ones who bring the same lunch to work every day. The ones who talk too much or not enough, too loudly or barely audibly. The ones who stand too close, or the ones who keep huge distances. The ones who wear sunglasses inside but do such good work, you don't fault them for that. The ones who wear sandals in the winter and turtlenecks in the summer. We are a strange bunch, but we do enjoy our work and feeling productive - just like everyone else.
Autism is not a medical issue or mental illness. It is a developmental disorder that affects social skills mainly. It means we don't pick up on a lot of non-verbal cues. I have a hard time predicting what a person will do next. I will move over to the wrong side of the sidewalk when people come towards me (I don't know which is the right side, I always get it wrong!) I'm the worst at solving crime mysteries. However, a lack of social graces does not equal a lack of intelligence or a lack of empathy or feelings. When we have hurt someone, often completely unintentionally, we are very upset and want to fix it. 
On the plus side, what we lack in social ability, we make up for in other ways. Some of us are amazing with the written word, some with numbers. We have the ability to focus for hours without being distracted. We have an eye for detail - making us great code debuggers, game testers or editors. We have huge memories - great for dealing with large amounts of data. We have a strong sense of justice - we often follow the rules to the letter, which can mean being inflexible at times, but we make great legal secretaries or lawyers. Many of us are fine with routine repetitive tasks and derive a great deal of satisfaction from doing the same thing perfectly each time. 
So let's say an employee or potential employee tells you they are Autistic. What can you expect? Should you accommodate them? (In some places, it's illegal not to)
Read the rest of the article here.

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