How Companies Can Support Career Development And Advancement For Autistic Professionals

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Apr. 24 2024, Published 8:10 a.m. ET

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April is World Autism Month, and it’s the perfect time for business owners and company leaders to focus on support and awareness in order to facilitate environments where all professionals can thrive within their roles. The National Institute of Mental Health defines Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as a developmental disorder beginning in early childhood that can impact a person’s perception, behavior, learning and communication patterns. A spectrum, the condition impacts each individual at a different level of severity, but all are considered “neurodiverse.” 

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How To Support Autistic Professionals At Work

Tiffany Jameson, Ph.D., an inclusion consultant and founder of Grit and Flow, often works with company leaders on strategies to support and advocate for professionals with autism.

Inspired by her son’s autism, Jameson supports businesses in helping them to revise their hiring practices and workplace strategies, to ensure neuro-inclusive support and accessibility. She also helps neurodivergent adults transition into employment, a much-needed service considering that, according her, “85% of autistic individuals are either unemployed or underemployed.”

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Where processes to establish a neuro-inclusive workplace can be highly involved, the approach depends on the organization itself. “Some will look at their hiring process and start there, others want to look at the people already in their organization,” she said.

1. Re-evaluating Job Descriptions

One starting improvement businesses can apply immediately, Jameson said, is going back to their job description. Many neurodivergent candidates do not apply for positions if they fail to meet every expectation listed. For example, consider valuing skills that on self-taught, where professionals “can be just as good as anyone who attended a university,” she added.

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She also said that when job descriptions are copied or fueled with “ambiguity and unrealistic requirements,” there are skills mentioned that “are often not used, not essential to doing the job, or can be taught on the job.” Analyzing these descriptions creates a solid grounding for a solid interview. She describes how this process is “a great way to get people into jobs, but also for people to be successful in jobs” establishing the black and white nature of role expectations. 

2. Working Together Toward Career Goals

Dr Jameson also emphasized the importance of employees and employers compromising (within reason) when it comes to expectations. Much of her work involves engaging autistic employees to “self-advocate, speak up about their needs, and how they work best.”

When professionals on their interview journey have the confidence to “self-advocate in a respectful manner,” they are more empowered throughout. If a business shows an unwillingness to support these individual needs, Jameson said, organizations are the ones can miss out on good talent.

On the employer side, impression management is also important. If the interviewer focuses on ensuring the individual feels good during the interview, the candidate will likely establish a better impression.

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3. Incorporating Leadership Training And Knowledge On Autism Inclusion

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source: Pexels

Though candidates may feel supported throughout the hiring process, immersing into new environments is not always a strength for autistic professionals, Jameson added. “Individuals do not always know what they need. Employees may learn on the job that they need help, regardless of their neurotype.” Jameson advises employers that giving people access to what to the learning tools and resources they need “lessens stress, anxiety and burnout” which stems from working in an uncomfortable state.  

Dr. Jameson is an advocate for inclusion training for all employees and sees the importance in establishing “people-centered organizations, which creates a neuro-inclusive workplace that is better for everyone.” She advises doing this through regular employee check-ins, to ensure they have the resources to complete their best work and that they can clarify any uncertainty. These check-ins force people to discuss about their needs on a regular basis instead of letting things fester.

The check-ins also support boss and employee relationships to be built, Jameson said, helping the business to be open-minded and focus on every individual and what they need. Over time, the practice becomes natural for the organization while allowing employees to feel belonging and included, all things Jameson identifies as being important. “When you create person centered practices with check-ins and giving people adjustments when they need them, you’re building a return on investment for retention, productivity and innovation.”

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By: Emily Wilson

Emily Wilson is an Australian Freelance Writer, Producer and Non-Profit Director based in London, UK

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