auticon’s consultants and clients are supported by our job coaches who ensure that the consultants’ work environments enable them to deliver to their full professional potential. Our talented job coaches promote inclusion and wellbeing and are integral to making sure our consultants feel supported in their assignments. Most importantly they provide clients with support and information regarding autism in the workplace and can convey feedback between the client and the consultant.
There is still much work to do in providing equality to our autistic colleagues in the workplace. The traditional job interview remains a barrier for neurodivergent people, and once hired, few are comfortable disclosing their autism and asking their employer for support. As a result, many will painfully mask their autistic behaviors to fit in at work.
The following results from our annual Impact Report show that our consultants are succeeding at work, and in life, due in part to our amazing job coaching teams:
Meredith has built her wealth of knowledge based on her lived experience being a mother of an autistic child. She understands the challenges of many autistic people and is determined to change their prospects in life. She’s a Job Coach and for her, working at auticon is a very personal experience.
“My son is unemployed; he is one of those stats that we talk about. To be part of an organisation where you can help change that – in a meaningful way – for a handful of people is incredible.”
“I understand every person’s journey through our recruitment process. I understand why they’re so desperate to have someone understand that they’re different and understand the trauma that they have gone through.”
What is a typical day like when supporting our autistic consultants?
I love that each day can be filled with positive real-life progression for our consultants, like moving out of home and a request to help them organize priorities and actions for this life-changing independent living event. It may also include challenging moments for a consultant where I spend most of the day helping them to identify how they can be supported during a crisis. Each day presents moments that can be emotionally exhausting and exhilarating. Taking time to celebrate each consultant’s gains is also an important part of every day.
What “autism masking” behavior can employers be aware of and how can they respond?
Masking is something we all do, but autistic people more so because they feel they must ‘fit in’. Constantly trying to predict an ‘expected acceptable’ response to a question or social situation is exhausting. Being aware and actively thinking about all those pervasive unwritten rules of corporate culture is an important first step. Is there an expectation of having a camera on during a meeting? Allowing ‘the choice to have a camera on or off supports a person to be themselves and focus on the meeting content. Another is re-thinking workplace attire expectations as we begin to move back to onsite working arrangements. Feeling comfortable is important. Employers can respond by embracing differences and creating a culture where it is ok to be yourself.
What advice do you give autistic workers experiencing stress and anxiety from daily events?
Reaching out and talking to your coach or someone you trust is an important first step. Knowing who is on your team helps to recognize you are not alone. Utilizing the relationship and rapport with a coach can help facilitate the identification of the cause of the stress and anxiety. Implementing a multi-pronged approach like actively listening, talking, and mindfulness tools supports a person in identifying the root cause and begin working on strategies to help tackle stress and anxiety. Breathing exercises and mindfulness activities can be an immediate and helpful first response.
What do you think employers get very wrong about supporting autistic employees?
Employers may see an employee’s differences, but not their strengths. Everyone has an inbuilt unconscious bias toward expectations. Re-thinking expectations around communication styles, social responses, sensory sensitivities, and problem-solving can change your perspective. Knowing that there are organizations like auticon that can help employers understand how to support their neurodivergent colleagues is an important positive first step. It’s challenging but can be learnt and embedded.
What do employers need to know about performing job interviews with neurodivergent people?
Many barriers are preventing neurodivergent job seekers from getting to the interview stage. Providing universal accommodations up front, like supplying interview questions in advance, supports neurodivergent and non-neurodivergent job seekers to showcase their best selves. In disclosing a condition, a culture that allows a person to feel comfortable, not fear, is key. Be comfortable with silence and give people time to think and formulate an answer to your question. Eye contact during an interview isn’t relevant in gauging skill or integrity.