A Guide to Understanding High-Functioning Autism and Asperger Syndrome
Training employers to better understand those with Autism Spectrum Disorders is always a favorite workshop to me. It’s like helping someone find a hidden treasure they otherwise would have missed or overlooked without navigating via a map. This could be said of parenting workshops however, without the parental bond, it’s simply explaining to a neurotypical “Brain Wiring 101”. You can witness the employers gain of understanding ASD by the end of the workshop! The blog below is a basic reference for any employer, co-worker or interested party, to gain a better understanding for working with (and advancing) those employees diagnosed with Autism or Asperger Syndrome. At the end of the blog, we’ve included a link to download a tri-fold brochure with all this information on it, a thank you to H-E-B Community for making the brochure possible!
A Glimpse at Asperger Syndrome
Asperger Syndrome is a neurological condition resulting in a group of social and behavioral symptoms. It is part of a category of conditions called Autism Spectrum Disorders, though the revised DSM-V leaves Asperger Syndrome out of it’s manuel and places the symptoms under Autism Spectrum Disorder(s) or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified,” or PDD-NOS. The name, Asperger Syndrome is still used among the community as there has not otherwise been a name to specifically fit the diagnosis. People with Asperger Syndrome usually have normal to above normal intelligence and do not have the language problems typical of autism. It can lead to difficulty interacting socially, repeat behaviors, and clumsiness.
Key Characteristics of High Functioning Autism/Asperger Syndrome are:
• Difficulty with Social Relationships
• Difficulty with Communication
• Special Interests
• Love of Routine
• Poor Concentration/Easily Distracted
A full day of work may be difficult. Areas of challenge may include social cues, sensory and thinking and processing or more. Know that gifts and challenges are unique to the individual with ASD so don’t be afraid to discuss a customized plan if they require one.
Common Workplace Challenges
- 1) Social Interaction
- 2) Sensory Issues
- 3) Thinking and Processing
Let’s look closer at each listed workplace challenge, both the challenges and suggested accommodations.
1) SOCIAL INTERACTION
*Does not know how to engage with coworkers (small talk)
• Unsettled over workplace rules such as breaks, being late,basic expectations
• Difficulty initiating or maintaining eye contact
• Co-workers and managers display frustration and/or bullying to the employee with autism
• Assign a “work buddy” or mentor to explain social norms. Know that small talk is pointless and painful for people with ASD
• Provide Stress balls, offer an intro to the workplace day to learn protocol. Have it in written format for easy reference
• Do not pressure the person to make direct eye contact as it is very stressful if not painful for people with ASD
• Educate human resources personnel, managers and employees about Autism & Asperger’s Syndrome
2) SENSORY ISSUES
• Loud, sudden or repetitive sounds may distract or hurt
• Tactile issues such as texture on office chair or fabric of company shirt may be painful
• Overhead fluorescent lights painful
• Heavy perfumes from co-workers or strong odors from food distracts
• Offer noise cancelling headphones, white noise or a quiet workspace
• Offer seating surfaces or uniforms without polyester. Allow for cotton or other desired fabric instead
• Switch from fluorescent lighting to soothing natural light
• Allow for personal air fresheners
3) THINKING AND PROCESSING
• Forgets verbal instructions
• Distracted by co-workers
• Confused by expected deadlines
• Job Growth and Performance
• Avoid abstract directives
• Create checklists for multi-step processes through a pictorial or visual timetable
• May need a quiet space to work, background music, headphones or other strategies to overcome distraction
• Pictorial or visual timetables
• Use of a self-assessment/self-rating scale, to identify strengths and weaknesses may be beneficial
Alongside challenges, there are many positive traits of those diagnosed with Autism or Asperger Syndrome.
- High integrity
- Can recall fine details that others miss
- Persistent with excellent follow through
- Above-average intelligence
- Loathe office small talk and trivialities, preferring instead to talk about significant things that will enhance their knowledge base
- Ability to focus intensely for long periods
- Enhanced learning ability
- Deep knowledge of an obscure or difficult subject resulting in success scholastically and professionally when channeled
- Honest & hard workers who make for excellent employees when painstaking & methodical analysis are required
Individuals with Asperger Syndrome thrive with:
*A calm and controlled supervisor
*An organized work environment
Autism is a very broad spectrum. Know that the brain is wired differently and its effect on employee(s). Don’t let your fear of the word, Autism, get in the way of their (and your) success. One last suggestion: Never assume a person’s needs based on the diagnosis of Autism. Get to know the person and you’ll grow to know the employee.
Download the Tri-Fold Brochure Here!
If you are an employer and are seeking training on better understanding Autism Spectrum Disorders, you may contact Aspergers101 Training for Employers HERE
by: Jennifer Allen
After an extensive career broadcast marketing, Jennifer and her husband searched for answers when their oldest son hit the kinder years with great difficultly. After finally learning that their oldest son had Aspergers Syndrome, she left her career in television and became a full time mother to both of her sons. Jennifer elicited the participation of her sons and together they produced several independent programs including a children’s animated series titled Ameriquest Kids (now distributed by Landmark Media) as well as her documentary and book titled, Coping to Excelling: Solutions for school-age children diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism or Aspergers Syndrome.
The need for more information encouraged Jennifer to elicit a team of autism experts to provide weekly, original content to a website free to anyone seeking to live their best under the diagnosis of High-Functioning Autism/Aspergers Syndrome… appropriately titled: Aspergers101.com.