Bringing people with autsism to the workplace – US and UK

The Benefits of Hiring People with Autism – an article by Joe Thomas, July 2016

In the UK there are more than 700,000 individuals living with autism, however, less than 15% of these people are in full-time employment. This is a dispiriting figure when you consider the many skills and talents people with autism have, skills which are highly beneficial in the workplace.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is not a disease or illness and it cannot be cured - the unique elements of autism are an integral part of the person’s make-up. As it is defined across a spectrum, people with autism will all experience it in a unique way, however, it usually has some effect on how individuals communicate and interact with others. As well, it is also important to remember that autism is not a visible disability.

In 2010, The Equality Act came into force in the UK and made it unlawful for any employer to discriminate on the grounds of disability. Perhaps this has made some employers reassess their approach to autism, however, employing people with a disability is not a matter of filling quotas. Instead, the focus should be on the value each individual can bring to the prospective role. Those who fall within the spectrum of autism have a huge amount to offer companies. Individuals with autism are often excellent problem solvers; have outstanding concentration and memory skills; pay great attention to detail; and are highly dependable, just some of the traits that companies are looking for in employees.

While every applicant who applies for a job should be treated as an individual, there is common ground amongst people with autism that can be reached, which, when recognised by companies can make the hiring process run much more smoothly.

Things to consider:


Some individuals with autism will find understanding body language and facial expressions difficult and this can sometimes hinder communication.

Repetitive Behaviours

People with autism will often see the world in a different way and thus they tend to enjoy the security of familiarity and routine. This is a positive trait in a working environment.


Interaction concerns how individuals with autism behave in the presence of others. For example, if they are concerned, they may retreat within themselves; or they may sometimes appear insensitive, but only because they find it difficult to read cues from those around them.

The Interview Process

People with autism often develop a keen interest in a particular subject and become hugely knowledgeable about it. If you can discover what this interest is during the interview, and encourage the candidate to talk about it, it can help put them at ease.

Sometimes jokes and sarcasm are not understood well by individuals with autism, as physical cues are hard for them to read. Therefore, be straightforward and express yourself clearly. Also, if there are gaps in the conversation don’t rush in to fill the silence, the person may just need a little longer to formulate their response.

The Induction Process

Once an individual with autism has been hired, there are simple steps you can take to make their first few days with you as positive an experience as possible.

- Send induction material to the new employee early so they can take the time to read through and absorb it before they start. This will help to lessen first day nerves.

- If possible, try to seat the person away from noise or people passing by regularly, as this can be unsettling. It’s also important to build structure into the day so individuals know what to expect.

- People with autism can be perfectionists so it’s important to give regular feedback on how things are going and provide reassurance where necessary.

Individuals with autism tend to have strong skills in particular areas and can often outperform their peers in these capacities. It’s important therefore to tap into these strengths and allow the employee the freedom to utilise their skill-set within the working environment. When this happens much of the misunderstanding about autism falls away and employers recognise what a valuable asset the individual is to their business.

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Companies find hiring those on the spectrum has vast benefits

This is the heading of an article by Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, Chicago Tribune/TNS, June 15, 2016 featured on the DisabilityScoop website. These are extracts:

…The official autism diagnosis came more than a year later, along with the whirlwind of figuring out schools and therapies. Not until his son, Hayden, reached high school and Williams glimpsed him as an adult did a fresh wake-up call hit.

What happens next? Williams, CEO of suit-maker Hart Schaffner Marx, hopes to help answer that question for the many families worried about the same thing.

With the help of a company called Autism Workforce, the suit manufacturer has retooled everything from its employment applications to the signage on the factory floor to fit how people with autism live and think, rather than expecting them to adapt to the “neurotypical” world.”

All tax forms are now color-coded. All applications have small pictures to offer visual cues. Customized job descriptions detail whether a position requires a lot of fine motor skills or will take place in an environment where smells and sounds are strong, so applicants and their parents know whether it would be a proper fit.

Green plants were added to the office for a calming effect. Light bulbs were changed from harsh fluorescents to LEDs. Yellow lines painted on the ground help people navigate the factory floor.

A central feature is a new exercise room where employees with autism do a 30-minute workout before starting their shifts, performing sit-ups and bicep curls under the eye of an exercise coach. The room is designed in blue because it is a soothing color, and has an artificial-grass sensory wall to give users something to touch if that helps….

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