Autism Spectrum Disorder at Work

“Go ahead as you wish, I trust you, and give me a complete summary as soon as possible!” This assignment that would appeal to many workers would horrify most workers with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). When hiring one of these talents, what should you pay attention to for successful integration?

“Successful integration is when you no longer talk about an autistic worker, but an employee or a colleague: he has the space to exercise his skills and preferences, like any worker,” sums up Emmanuelle Ladouceur, Integration Counsellor at Action Main-d’oeuvre (SSMO), an organization that supports ASD workers and their employers.

One of the main differences between a neurotypical employee and another with an ASD is the importance of “favourable conditions” so that their strengths can be expressed. Without falling into generalities, an autistic worker often needs clear and detailed instructions and a work space in which their hypersensitivity will not adversely affect their performance. What is the point of exhausting them with inappropriate artificial lighting or close proximity when their energy could be directed towards precise execution of a manual task or creative elaboration of a solution to a technical problem?

Providing a match between the environment and a candidate with ASD.

The “perfect match” between a position and a candidate is the key for everyone to win.

A generic job description does not allow an autistic worker to “get his head around” this balance. Neither does a hiring interview where non-verbal actions and respect for social norms (such as the dress code) are considered allow the skills of an autistic worker to be properly assessed.

“An autistic worker has to feel what is expected of him. He also has to identify his work environment, including the people who will be part of his daily life,” explains the Integration Counsellor. “What are the real tasks related to the job? What is the hierarchical system in place? What will his workspace be like, and who will he be working with every day?”

When the employer is receptive, Action Main-d’Oeuvre organizes visits to the workplace, an opportunity for the autistic worker to not only ask all the questions that bother him but also to see whether or not he will feel good in this environment.

Punctuality, respect for rules, seriousness, attention to detail, creative thinking, logical reasoning, photographic memory… Autism Spectrum Disorder is accompanied by valuable qualities that have their place in the business, at the cost of a few accommodations. According to Emmanuelle Ladouceur, it is not uncommon for employers to learn useful things about how they work by considering strategies for adaptation. Are they able, for example, to accurately summarize the relevance of any meeting and the expectations of each person present? Have they already measured the weight of the innuendos in their internal communications?

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