auticon’s technologists and clients are supported by our job coaches who ensure that the technologists’ work environments enable them to deliver to their full professional potential. Our talented job coaches promote inclusion and well-being and are integral to making sure our technologists 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 technologist.
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 technologists are succeeding at work, and in life, due in part to our amazing job coaching teams:
Reshma joined auticon after a long career as a special education teacher, emphasizing Community Based Instruction. Being the first Job Coach in the U.S. has been a rewarding experience for her, and she has loved watching the team grow. Reshma’s journey to auticon began when she had a passion for Community Based Instruction and how it could lead to better career outcomes for adults on the autism spectrum. Her curiosity led her to become a Job Coach at auticon in 2020, and she was promoted to Lead Job Coach in 2022.
“I work with our team on advocating, communication, wellbeing in the workplace, and executive functioning, to name a few. I also work with our clients to teach them best practices when working with adults on the spectrum and support our technology managers in managing our autistic teammates. The Job Coach position acts kind of as a bridge between everyone. Being a Job Coach has been the best job title that I have ever held.”
What is a typical day like when supporting our autistic technologists?
There are no two days that are ever the same, which is something that makes my job unique. I work with our team on communication, well-being in the workplace, and executive functioning, among other topics. I also support our technology managers in guiding their autistic teammates. For our clients, I teach them best practices for working with adults on the spectrum. The Job Coach position acts as a bridge between everyone.
What “autism masking” behavior can employers be aware of and how can they respond?
Masking is the idea of hiding autistic behaviors to blend in. This behavior can be exhausting for someone on the spectrum and present itself in various ways. Some of our teammates at previous jobs also never felt comfortable disclosing that they were on the spectrum, which is unfortunate. Masking behaviors can include something as simple as needing a question repeated but not wanting to request it, managing stress, and taking an appropriate break. I tell our clients to build that relationship with their teammates in order to create that safe space. I also recommend weekly check-ins with a supervisor or job coach on your team to make sure the well-being of your autistic teammate is being addressed.
What advice do you give autistic workers experiencing stress and anxiety from daily events?
The pandemic years have been stressful for all of us. I tell people to take breaks from the news, including social media, and to take some things with a grain of salt. I suggest increasing self-care during these stressful times and being kind to themselves. I also remind our team that we are all here for each other and to lean on our support systems. We hold a weekly support circle during the workday where our teammates can take an hour-long break to voice their frustrations and talk to their peers.
What do you think employers get very wrong about supporting autistic employees?
I think employers forget that most of the accommodations that someone on the spectrum may need can be helpful for everyone. This includes flexible work hours, sending information in writing, building trust with your new teammate, allowing processing time, or providing advance notice when there is a change in deadline.
What do employers need to know about performing job interviews with neurodivergent people?
Interviews can be difficult for anyone! Making the interview more of a casual conversation rather than a formal interview can help to ease anxiety and make the process more enjoyable for your potential employee. I would allow flexibility, such as keeping the camera off on a video call or sending interview questions in advance.