June 18th is Autistic Pride Day, where we celebrate and recognise the unique abilities of those with autism. While autism affects 1 in 100 people globally, with 700,000 registered as autistic in the UK alone, only 16% are in full-time work and, as Disability Confident Leaders we want to change that.
Autism is a spectrum, and while at its most severe it is a disability, on the lower end of the spectrum it can simply mean you see the world differently.
At O’Brien Media, we recognise that autistic people have unique talents and perspectives that can be invaluable to our team.
Recognising the signs of autism
Diagnosing autism is difficult, which is why many people with autism may be going undiagnosed. It’s important to recognise the symptoms not just in others, but in yourself too. Employers can be accommodating to those with autism, but only if they are aware. The NHS lists the below symptoms as common signs of autism in adults:
- finding it hard to understand what others are thinking or feeling
- getting very anxious about social situations
- finding it hard to make friends or preferring to be on your own
- seeming blunt, rude, or not interested in others without meaning to
- finding it hard to say how you feel
- taking things very literally – for example, you may not understand sarcasm or phrases like “break a leg”
- having the same routine every day and getting very anxious if it changes
Awareness is key for Employers
If you think you may be autistic, the first step is to seek a diagnosis from a professional. This can be a long and difficult process, but it will be worth it in the end. Once you have a diagnosis, you can then start working with your employer to find ways to accommodate your needs and make your workplace more autism-friendly.
If you’re an employer, there are a few things you can do to make your workplace more autism-friendly:
- Make sure your workplace is well-lit, with no sudden changes in light level or noise level.
- Allow flexible working hours or locations, if possible.
- Encourage employees to take breaks when they need to, and provide a quiet space for them to relax in if possible.
- Be understanding if an employee seems uninterested in socialising with colleagues – they may just prefer to work alone.
- Provide clear instructions and expectations, and avoid ambiguity where possible.
- Try to be aware of body language and facial expressions, as autistic people may not pick up on these cues.
While autism can mean certain tasks or situations are more difficult, it can also mean that you have unique abilities that others don’t, which will be highly valued by many employers. The key is to be proud, confident and honest when speaking to employers about autism, which will allow them to be as accommodating as possible to you.
O’Brien Media is proud to be an inclusive workplace and will continue to support and celebrate Autistic Pride Day.