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Question:

What are measures an employer or colleagues can take to better accommodate workers who are on the autism-spectrum?

The goal of the better accommodation/changed behavior would be to improve the wellbeing of colleagues on the spectrum to reduce absence from work.

Ideas:

  • introduction of a "meditation space": A simple room with a low noise level, simple furniture (which doesn't get changed) and pleasant lighting. This room would function as a meditation room which can be used to "reset" from sensory over-stimulation or stressful situations.

  • headphones with noise-canceling provided to reduce the noise disturbances of an office environment.

Background:

The question asked is part of a research project which aims to improve the employment rate of adults who are on the autistic-spectrum by providing "solutions" to possible hindrances of employing an individual who's on the spectrum. The group I'm working in is trying to find solutions for the question asked above. The main input for the work will be from interviews so I thought SE would be a great source to prepare for those interviews.


PS: I'm perfectly aware that autism is a wide spectrum which implies that there isn't a one fit all solution for everybody on the spectrum. Nevertheless, I think the question is still answerable by listing helpful approaches.

I've never said that those measures are only done for employees on the spectrum. The meditation room is a meditation room so people can relax in it. I don't propose a "silent room for autistic people", as this would exclude those colleagues from the rest instead of integrating them better into the company which is the goal. And one approach to improve the workplace for everyone is to look into the individual needs of individual employees and investigate if those could be implemented to improve the general workplace

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    Change job interviews to reduce the influence of very context-specific social skills that Autistic people might lack, so that they can get employed in the first place. – nick012000 Dec 3 at 9:42
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    Not even read the question, but upvoted just for asking. As the father of a young person with ASD, I appreciate it. – Darren Dec 3 at 11:24
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    Is this an XY problem? You want to reduce absence from work, but are focusing on being more accommodating to people with autism in order to achieve that? Actually, now I've read your edit, it seems even further removed: you want to increase the employment rate of autistic people by reducing their rate of absence? Wouldn't that be a case of "putting the cart before the horse"? A person can't be absent from a job unless they're employed, and if they're employed then they're employable, in which case... job done, right? There must be something I'm misunderstanding here.. – Aaron F Dec 3 at 12:44
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    @AaronF Yeah, same. It seems like it's weaving between two distinct questions. Employee absences for employees on the autism spectrum, and issues with hiring employees on the autism spectrum. It's not clear which of the two they want to address IMO. – JMac Dec 3 at 15:17
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    It still sounds like a chicken-and-egg situation. Also it's using "people" and "individual" almost interchangeably. If an individual has more absences than another individual, is the first individual assumed to be autistic? If an autistic individual is starting their career and has no employment history, are they assumed to have a high rate of absenteeism? (Is your research project an actual scientific study? Is it currently being designed and you're looking for feedback on the design?) – Aaron F Dec 3 at 16:49

12 Answers 12

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Full disclosure: I am a high-functioning autistic.

I'm going to offer a few ideas that will benefit the greater workforce as well as the autistic employee, that way, everyone benefits.

Since autism is a spectrum, it varies, but:

  • Don't call anything a "safe space", it's insulting. We don't need safety, we need a good work environment.
  • Lights that don't flicker (e.g. high quality soft LED lights or incandescent lights) are a BIG PLUS. Many autistic people can sense the flickering of some lights, and it is as annoying as a buzzing, flickering one would be to you. LEDs can be full spectrum, and, including the "daylight blue" will help your other employees, as that is the wavelength that keeps us all awake.
  • Any environment free of loud, sudden noises is also good.
  • Anything standardized that doesn't change, or doesn't change often.
  • Well defined policies and procedures
  • Clearly defined work duties.
  • The noise cancelling headphones are an EXCELLENT idea, and again, other employees would benefit.
  • Anything to limit stimulus.
  • Scheduled breaks
  • The quiet room you described does show insight. Personally, I often run to the bathroom to reset. A room where you could just veg for a few minutes would be great too, and I imagine more than the autistic folks would benefit.

Perhaps the biggest insight I can give you is that the world itself is not made for us, an is uncomfortable, and is uncomfortable in such a way as to not be understood by people who are not on the spectrum.

Imagine, if you can, the color orange being painful, and every time you saw it, it felt like someone kicked you. Even when you know you're going to see it, you still feel the kick. Then, people around you are wondering why you are making such a big deal about the color orange. You, of course, not knowing that other people don't feel pain when they see orange, are going to wonder why you are so weak because they don't react to the pain they must be feeling, while telling you to stop making such a big deal of it.

So, yes, trying to understand it is a great help. Just knowing that the effort is being made, makes us a bit more at ease.

EDITED TO ADD:

I've seen the analogy of an autistic mind being like a train, where as an Neurotypical mind is more like a car.

A train can pull quite a bit of freight, and at a high speed, but if you try to take a sharp turn, you are in trouble.

Similarly, you wouldn't want a car pulling 20 box cars.

It's about knowing how to utilize the people. Just like everybody else, we do some things well, and some things poorly.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Lilienthal Dec 4 at 8:40
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    @Graham Being a high-functioning autistic person myself, I think the analogy is apt. Imagine having the ability to proofread hundreds of pages of text in a single sitting, but finding it hard to settle in and get started, and extremely difficult (like nails on a chalkboard, but worse) to answer a ringing phone once you have. It's not that HFA folks are stronger per se, it's that we can build a lot more mental momentum but lack the ability to accelerate (speed up, slow down, or change direction quickly) with the ease that neurotypicals enjoy. I wish it weren't so hard to be normal. – Roy Tinker Dec 4 at 23:39
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    Flickering lights can also induce migraines in people who are prone to them, as a separate issue from autism. My boss is not autistic but is prone to migraines, so she has to turn the light off in her office if she feels a migraine coming on. Thankfully she has an office where she can do that. Most of us can't adjust the lighting at all. – notmySOaccount Dec 5 at 2:35
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    @Graham as "offensive" as it seems, HFA, given the right environment, will work like you have never seen. You need to meet one "in the zone" to know what I'm talking about. They can do things that will break teams of people. – Nelson Dec 5 at 4:05
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    I would add to this: fully-contained offices, with closeable doors, not cubicles in an open-plan office. Open-plan is the killer of productivity. – Ian Kemp Dec 5 at 14:20
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As the OP and other answers have acknowledged, autistic people vary tremendously and there's no one-size fits all approach, but some things that are often worth considering:

  • Reduce intrusive stimuli. Noise and flickering lights have already been mentioned, but think also about the other senses. Scents (perfume, air "fresheners", tuna fish) can be problems for some people.
  • Consider how different people like to communicate. I vastly prefer to read things than listen to them; voice meetings aren't great for me.
  • Avoid requiring autistic people to answer questions on the spot. Give us time to think about our responses.
  • Templates and scripts are very useful. It's hard for me to gauge what level of detail to provide in a report; "here's what we did for a similar project last year" makes my life easier.
  • When planning things that are likely to be demanding for autistic people, allow time and space to decompress. For instance, if I'm at a day-long planning session I prefer to have "me time" away from the crowds, so don't make every meal a networking event. After something like a conference, I can end up with a "people hangover" for days, especially if I'm not getting break time.
  • As suggested by Sulthan, don't make employees share rooms on work trips.
  • Avoid uncertainty where possible. For instance, if inviting a staff member to a one-on-one, let them know what it's about. (Especially important since autism is often accompanied by anxiety - don't leave space for people to worry "am I in trouble?" when they're not.)
  • Find out what sort of work your employees find most enjoyable/relaxing, and factor that in. For instance, I find programming useful to decompress, so I'll sometimes be working on a programming project even when that might be a low priority in our work plan because I'm not in the right headspace to be writing reports or emailing people.
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    well written. Myself, I can get mesmerised by something as simple as a ticking clock, completely losing myself and not noticing anything around me for long periods. Yet people having conversations near me that don't include me can drive me into an anxiety attack. A manager planning a meeting for 2 weeks hence and not telling me what it's about has in the past caused me so much anxiety I ended up in a suicidal episode. Had the meeting been a day or two later I'd probably no longer be here, it was that close. – jwenting Dec 3 at 5:47
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    For instance, if inviting a staff member to a one-on-one, let them know what it's about. Which is good practise anyway. It seems like a lot of what makes life easier for autistic people can amount to "don't be a dick". :) The rest of us can tolerate idiots and annoyance, but it's much more of a stumbling block for people with autism. – Graham Dec 3 at 9:09
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    +1 for mentioning smells. There can be an awful lot of "loud" smells in an office. – Pam Dec 3 at 9:12
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    The "me time" to decompress can be very important, but doesn't need to be time away from work. Once, after a long day at a trade show I was so drained. Glad to be able to spend the next day just modding PCBs in a more-or-less silent room. – Wilson Dec 3 at 10:13
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    For me, work trips can be very stressful if the boss is cheap and doesn't pay for a single hotel room for everyone. I just cannot stand sharing personal space (bathroom, toilet, bedroom) with a person I barely know. – Sulthan Dec 3 at 19:52
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  • headphones with noise-canceling provided to reduce the noise disturbances of an office environment.

That's a cheap crappy workaround which doesn't even work that well. Noise cancelling headphones are good at blocking the sound of someone outside with a pneumatic drill, but not at blocking the sound of colleagues talking. The real solution is to go back to an office environment rather than a cattle-pen open plan environment. Walls are much better at mitigating sound. And the reduced distractions may help neuro-typical employees too.

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    Wearing headphones or earbuds for extended periods can also cause health issues due to lack of ventilation; some people also experience discomfort or pain after a while no matter how well these devices fit. Headphones/earbuds should never be a primary solution, at best they should be an option for people that want to listen to something while showing consideration for their coworkers. – fr13d Dec 3 at 13:15
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    StackExchange should know something about that... joelonsoftware.com/2003/09/24/bionic-office – user3067860 Dec 3 at 14:39
  • @fr13d … and hearing loss (which I guess the less ethical employer may consider a long-term fix to the original problem). – T.E.D. Dec 3 at 15:02
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    Good quality noise cancelling can really block a lot of sounds. My colleague has headphones where- if you put on music at low volume can't hear anyone talk who's next to you. If you turn the music off it is like it's really far away. Your statement is overly negative about noise cancelling. The description you gave about Noise cancelling headphones describe my passive noise cancelling headphones (no technology just closed off). I do absolutely agree that these open offices are a pain, I'm in one right now and it's extremely noisy. But separate offices are pricey :(. – Mathijs Dec 4 at 7:41
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    +1, personally I can't stand noise cancelling headphones and find the sensation very distracting. They are always pushed as the first and best option to office noise but in reality they are just a cheap sticking plaster, the cause should be treated, not the symptom – Lord Jebus VII Dec 4 at 12:04
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I'm an autistic, verbal woman. Here are some ideas based on what I need to have at work to be able to work properly and from what I read in literature and found to be useful but have never tried myself.

What I use:

  • noise-cancelling headphones are more than a nice to have, it's vital to me. Getting the company to invest in good sets for every employee is a bet on their future well-being, especially if we're talking open office here.

  • consider allowing people to do staggered hours. I start 2 hours earlier than everyone in the morning and this is when I get my best job done. Trust me, if I could come in even earlier, I would.

  • don't take it personally if an autistic coworker declines an invitation to a work social gathering. For instance, it's not that I don't want to socialize with coworkers, I just can't stand the crowded places where it usually takes place, the choice of the activity usually being kept secret until last minute, and the places where to eat with which I can't accommodate my restrictive diet due to sensory overload. Many autistic people can't stand small talk either. Don't take it personally if they won't join you by the water cooler. Maybe try to think about calmer events that wouldn't be very different from their usual work context, but even with that, it's possible they would decline. If it's crucial for you to have them to join, try to explain them why and work together to find a way to meet in the middle. Autistic people don't refuse to socialize to get people mad. There's always a possibility to meet halfway that could satisfy both parts.

  • I take short breaks every hour. I understand how it might be perceived as inefficiency or laziness, but I need those to lever down the sensory overload a bit. My boss never complained about it and I do my job on time. Without those, I wouldn't.

What some of my autistic friends use or other ideas that I read to be useful in autism literature resources:

  • consider allowing part-time contracts. One of my friends was exhausted by the 40-hour contract their engineering job requires in their country, so they told their manager about it and got to work 10 hours less per week. I've never seen them happier and they're even much more productive than before.

  • neuroatypicity (and more generally, disability) awareness days sound like a good idea in order to get their non-autistic coworkers to know about how they function and why they might seem a bit off or weird sometimes. Most of the time, discrimination comes from a place of ignorance.

Thank you for trying to make your office a better place for your autistic coworkers. I didn't always work in a friendly environment like what you're trying to offer. One last important point: it seems indeed a good idea not to reserve those facilities to neurodiverse people, as it might annoy your neurotypical coworkers. Plus, offering everyone some new ways to relax might set a quieter, better environment for everyone to socialize and communicate more efficiently.

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    (+1) I declined an invitation for work Christmas party because it requires me to travel to a different city and spend the night sharing a hotel room with two other people. I wouldn't mind the travelling but I just cannot share a room with two people I barely know. – Sulthan Dec 3 at 19:54
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Background

Many great answers already, but as another autistic individual I wanted to add my 2 cents. Oh, and like the rest, disclaimer: autism is not one single thing, it's a wide spectrum of traits with varying severities. Also I'm going to say "employee" a lot because "autist" or "autistic individual" sounds ridiculous if you say it more than twice, just know that this entire thing is about autistic employees.

My career has been going for about 10 years now, I'll list the things I've had trouble with in the past and how they were solved as well as things I still have problems with and how I think I can be accommodated. I've also recently completed therapy where I tried to learn exactly these things about myself to increase my chances of success and happiness at work.

Solved issues

Clarity

I need clarity, I don't fully understand what it entails, but anytime I feel like something is not clear to me I will ask questions until the feeling is gone. This can mean asking about the priorities of certain tasks or it can mean asking for a full technical specification of the required work before starting. It can result in discussions, because a lot of my questions come in the form of "but if x is like y, how can a be like b?". You can help the employee asking a lot of questions by realizing they are not trying to be a smartass or poke holes in their assignments, they are trying to envision what is expected of them and they don't want to start if they're not sure their vision 100% matches yours.

Structure

Which is a nice segue to structure. Structure is having predictable and consistent rhythms for things, my first job we did a lot of overtime, we would work entire nights and then skip a day or two to compensate, we would focus on this product then on that one then back to this, build a feature only to remove it again only to build it again, etc. It was chaos, and after 5 years of that I was toast. I had a burnout, which spiralled into depression. Structure is incredibly important for me. Examples of good structure are:

  • Having set working days, times and locations.
  • Make coworkers that the employee depends on be in the office according to a predictable pattern.
  • Have recurring meetings at a set time and location.
  • Start and stop meetings and similar activities at their planned time.
  • Communicate any change of plans ahead of time to allow for acclimatisation.
  • Let the employee focus on one product at a time, minimize context switches, communicate upcoming context switches.

Planning

Another huge problem area for me is planning. I can't break down a task into smaller steps. Give me a task that's less than half a day's work and I'll complete it in less than half a day. Give me a task that's a day's work and I'll complete it in half a week. Big tasks that are not chopped up into smaller pieces are near impossible for me. And ask me for a time estimate on big projects and you might as well just use a randomizer for your answer. I sit with a coworker each week where I discuss my current work and how I plan to approach it. He then evaluates with me if that's a feasible approach and if there is anything to keep in mind or to clarify before starting.

Stimuli

Like many of the other answers mention, distractions are plentiful and intrusive. Sudden and/or loud noises are detrimental to productivity. Crowded areas as well. You can provide a calm space in the office, for example we have one open office with a small meeting room next to it, those seeking a stimuli-free environment can sit in that meeting room. Providing noise-cancelling headphones is also a great idea. You can also let your employees who are more easily distracted or stressed out by stimuli have first pick in seating arrangements, they will probably pick a spot in a corner somewhere away from the windows and the doors.

Getting started

Task initiation can be hard too. If an employee seems to show no progress on a task they started, perhaps you can ask them if something is blocking them or ask them to explain their plan for tackling the issue. If it seems like they have no overview of the work break it down with them and make them do smaller parts at once. You don't need to take away ownership of the issue, that feels really bad, but if you can split the ticket into three small tickets and leave them all assigned to them that can help a lot in starting, staying focussed and working efficiently.

Cooldown

Any work that requires the above mentioned skills will obviously take longer. But it will also add stress. If an employee is struggling with a lot of work that's heavy on executive functioning skills, consider giving them some tasks they naturally excel at. If you have a backlog lying around that needs labeling, sorting, re-organizing or similar, assign it to them (attach proper labels to Jira tckets, hunt down ticket creators for more information, do investigative reproduction work, do some testing, etc). If a project needs some maintenance work that doesn't involve any big decision but only menial labour let your employee who's struggling with too many decisions do it (A while back I spent over a week enabling linting warnings in our codebase and fixing the 2k+ warnings that were now showing up).

Unsolved issues

It's taken me many years, decades if you count the school years, to learn about what I need. And there is still much to learn. Above were the big ones that were once huge problems but are manageable now. Some other issues I face that I don't have good solutions for yet are:

  • Prioritizing in general, but mostly re-prioritizing on the fly. When I have three different tasks with different deadlines, I might get right which one I should start first and which one can wait till later. But when things take longer than expected or requirements change I won't switch or re-evaluate my priority list. If you know the employee has multiple deadlines, regularly evaluate with them how far they are with each assignment and steer them if you see they're not prioritizing one task enough.
  • Realizing I'm stuck. Once I've asked all my questions and have tickets I think I understand I get started but then sometimes I seem to accomplish nothing for days. Usually that is because something has changed and I no longer have a good overview, or something was more/harder work than I anticipated and it messes with my planning.
  • Dealing with changes. I still don't know which changes are bad and which don't matter, but it seems that anything that changes what (I think) is expected of me is bad. New seating arrangements is always something people worry about for me, they'll come up beforehand and discuss it with me and ask if that's not too much change and it's usually fine aside from a few days of getting used to it. While someone renaming a ticket can confuse me and cause unproductive sessions of thought loops and doubt. Best thing you can do is ask, always involve your employee in anything that might mess with what's in their head.
  • Meta cognition, this is thinking about what you're thinking about. Say I'm building a new feature and I think library x will do the trick, I'll add the library to the project and start experimenting with its features. I'll have some findings, possibly decide to use the library to build the feature and then I run into a wall. Say, the library's version is incompatible with some version in our project. At that moment A neurotypical person will make a judgement call, is it worth it to look into that version incompatibility or should I look for an alternative. That thought won't come up with me, I can make a plan and I can execute a plan but I can't do both at once. At that moment the plan is to find a library (check), see if it does what we need (check) and to implement the feature (unchecked). And so I will waste a lot of time on the last step of implementing the feature.

More info

This has become quite the wall of text, but I hope it helps you gain some insight. If you want to look more into what skills someone with ASD might have problems with, you can search for "executive functions". There is plenty of research about it and it covers the general topics that autistic folks struggle with. If you understand the list of symptoms any employee with ASD might be able to tell you which items on the list they can't do very well. Social skills can be taught, executive functioning skills is a set of skills that you either can or can't do, they won't improve a lot. So they require coping strategies, accommodations from the workplace as well as discipline and insight from the employee.

One last thing. My social skills were already developed more than enough to function in a regular working environment. But obviously social behaviour is the prime issue with ASD. Luckily, we can learn it, we just don't develop it naturally like normal people. Social behaviour is way too much to get into now anyway, but as a general rule of thumb, try to address any real problems as fast as possible and as clear as possible. If they say something rude in a meeting, take them apart after the meeting and explain exactly what they did and why it was wrong. You won't hurt their feelings, they'll just be glad someone is straight with them and helps them understand how to improve. Don't wait, don't save up multiple occurrences, be direct and keep consistently pointing out the good and the bad behaviour, it will help them a lot if they can recognize a pattern.

Here is some follow-up material:

  • A bit late but I wanted to thank you for your answer. I'm currently going through all the answers collecting all the information and your answer does include an incredible amount of information. Thank you for taking the time to answer! – GittingGud Dec 8 at 14:50
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I'm retired now, but I had a long career of battling for a little elbow room and understanding from my various employers. The number one problem I had over the decades was that the employers would not hear me when I asked for small accommodations. If you want to make the workplace less stressful for the spectrum, so that they don't miss work to decompress so often, then the managers and HR and whoever need to be tuned in.

I could tell at least 10 anecdotes from my experience when I told my boss exactly what the problem was and exactly what I thought the solution was and all I got was a shrug. For instance:

I was a math professor, so my schedule was very open. I had to be in class teaching 9 hours per week, and otherwise I decided my own schedule. I explained to my chairmen that a two-hour lunch, so I could eat and go for a long walk would be a great boon. It was an easy scheduling problem. Either don't give me any classes from 11:00 to 1:00 or from 12:00 to 2:00. In return, I would be happy to teach at 8:00 and/or 4:00 which are times nobody wants. I proposed this at three different positions and in all three cases I ended up with 8:00 and 4:00 classes BUT almost never got the 2-hour lunch. If I did get the long lunch break, it was only by accident. Somehow these chairmen heard me volunteering to teach early and late, but didn't hear why. I was offering these chairmen a great deal: Faculty willing to teach at 8:00 are rare finds. (So I'm trying here to show that the accommodation was not only of zero cost, but actually an advantage for the department.)

An important point here: It's not just that I didn't get accommodation, it's that they didn't even bother to say "no." At least with "no" one has an opening for discussion. But I would just be ignored.

At my last position, I had a meeting with the head of the so-called Office of Inclusion and Equity, which is tasked with deciding about accommodation. I started telling this woman that I was very stressed and she explosively interrupted me with "What on earth do YOU have to be stressed about!?" I got to say exactly half a sentence in that meeting. (She was a black woman and clearly thought her only job was to make sure blacks and women got equal treatment. As 6'3" inch, able-bodied, middle-aged white guy couldn't POSSIBLY have any stress in his cushy, gold-plated life.)

So again, the point here is that I couldn't get my requests heard. I went to battle with the above office and after 3 years, I finally got a letter from them saying that if I gave them the name of my doctor, they would give me a form to give to him to fill out. I gave them the name and then didn't hear anything for 3 more years.

Not "yes". Not "no." Just silence.

I did finally extract two small accommodations from my last employer. The long lunch schedule and a quieter place to work. I enjoyed this for 3 semesters and then without notice, the scheduling accommodation disappeared. I made an appointment with the chairman to ask what had happened and he refused to meet with me.

The common theme here is that the employer is not listening. If you really want to take advantage of what the spectrum has to offer then the managers have to be attuned to hear what the autistic person is saying. What you think is a mole hill might be a major problem. What you think is petty carping might really be the spilling of one's soul.

As many other answers and comments have said, there is no one-size-fits all accommodation here. That's why LISTENING is the most important thing the employer can do. If he can't get this right, all the other stuff is useless. And if he does get this right, then he's got all the flexibility one could want.

So that's my answer: Train the managers to recognize what accommodation requests from the spectrum sound like.

4

I'm a high functioning autistic person as well, having worked in multiple office environments. There are a lot of good suggestions that were given in the other answers but i'd like to add a few as well, that have benefited me:

The power of stop

Make sure that a colleague on the spectrum has a way to signal do not disturb. I had a coding job in an open office once, and I was allowed to put up a shield that said do not disturb. When the shield was up I was not to be disturbed by a talking to, phone calls or anything short of a fire. Having the freedom to "shut off" social contact to be able to power through work helped immensely, without an awkward discussion with colleagues having to explain why not to disturb of "having to announce it".

Don't expect fast replies

I reply to emails when it suits me. I have fixed times when I check my emails, when I come in, after lunch, shortly before I go and when I change tasks. That's when I have the headspace to work through items without having to "drop" something. Make sure that the managers don't expect a reply within 5 minutes or the hour. You don't know how long the person on the spectrum needed to get everything "loaded" in their head. Having to respond to an unrelated issue might unravel that all and costs precious hours to "re-load" or waste productivity for an entire day if it's a hard day for that person. Give them room to respond on their own time.

Temperament

Sometimes a colleague on the spectrum can be a bit volatile/snarky/abrasive, without it being the normal behavior. It might be an indicator of a bad day/period/personal life being overwhelming, but the person itself may not realize that. Being introspective can be very hard in those days because it's basically about blocking off everything and hitting everyone in the vicinity who comes close with a blunt piece of wood to have them back off and get some peace. Have a manager put up the sign of do not disturb for the day and have the person just work without social obligations towards colleagues. This step, the manager recognizing a "bad day" will help greatly, letting the person on the spectrum know it's safe at work and the person is still welcome and appreciated at work. From the persons perspective it's easier to stay at home "sick" than to become overstimulated at work due to social obligations, get in a shout out and then fired because the fuse was extremely short that day. Have the manager alert on the cues given off by off kilter behavior, and then decide for the person to put the sign up. Sometimes it's better not to talk to the person about it, because it requires introspection and social interaction, and introspection is so hard in those moments as is social interaction, especially for such a thing so dear as work. Being able to come to work, knowing the manager has got your back can provide that extra push to go to work anyways even though you feel as if your head is made of lead.

3

The ideas you have so far are good but won't cover all of the possible issues that need to be addressed. You'll probably want to adjust the way you give tasks to autistic people. You'll want to make your directions more precise. Eg:

Bad:

Find out what you can about this local event

Better:

Get onto Facebook, Google and Twitter, search for this local event and see if you can pull the location, start time and dress code for it.

There is also task overload. A lot of autistic people are very good when focused on one and only one task. Being sidetracked by people asking for updates on this, that or the other can make them break concentration and even lead to frustration.

Beyond that, it will depend on the individual and where they are on the spectrum.

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    Sorry but this answer has incorrect assumptions about autistic people. Specific directions are not a requirement, and task overload isn't always a thing. – Trevor Dec 2 at 17:35
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    "Find out what you can" would be a perfectly acceptable instruction for me, but you're probably going to get far more information than just the location, start time, and dress code. Task overload also isn't an issue: I've got no trouble dealing with a long queue of things to do. The problem is task interruption: if you call me up while I'm in the middle of one task to ask me to also do a different task, you're probably going to delay both tasks by at least half an hour. – Mark Dec 3 at 0:25
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    @Trevor I went off of some of the most common adjustments that are made for autistic people. I also prefaced task overload with 'a lot of', not 'all'. – 520 says Reinstate Monica Dec 3 at 9:06
  • @Mark RE: Task Overload. It kinda sounds like we're describing the same thing, almost. – 520 says Reinstate Monica Dec 3 at 9:07
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    Unfortunately(?) rote jobs are being replaced by automation... Most jobs nowadays do require a lot of value judgements and self direction. (Specifically, in my office if I have to tell you what to do at that level of detail then having you around is actually more work than not having you around--and it's never good when work can be reduced by firing someone.) – user3067860 Dec 3 at 14:27
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Why not provide noise canceling headphones to everyone? You don't need to show autistic notice from a doctor to like working in silence. Why "meditation room" not be avaiable for others to "chill out". Other people are not in stressful situation?

As a functioning person with autism - don't treat is at a special thing. There is NO, and I cannot stress is enough, NO improvement that should be provided mainly/only/to people with autism. Either everyone would benefit from such improvemnt OR the accomodation would be so cumbersome that person with autism would prefer to just look for work from home.

Just go with ideas on how to improve everyone workplace.

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    I've never said that those measures are only done for employees on the spectrum. The meditation room is a meditation room so people can relax in it. I don't propose a "silent room for autistic people", as this would exclude those colleagues from the rest instead of integrating them better into the company which is the goal. And one approach to improve the workplace for everyone is to look into the individual needs of individual employees and investigate if those could be implemented to improve the general work place. – GittingGud Dec 2 at 17:26
  • Agree, both to not single out people on the autism spectrum, but also and especially because many of the answers given to this question would be beneficial to all employees. – ObscureOwl Dec 3 at 9:52
  • @ObscureOwl I agree but this is, for me, more of a question "how to make my workplace better". In general. I think there are two fields, "benefit everyone" "benefit so small amount of people that it's not financially responsible toward all other employees". For example wheelchair ramp can be used by couriers by a wheelchair elevator where you need to call in operator is overshot. – SZCZERZO KŁY Dec 3 at 10:54
  • I disagree that noise cancelling headphones are a good solution. Blocking ears from natural ventilation for extended periods can cause health issues like ear infections. I have yet to find a device that does not cause me discomfort or pain after a while, prolonged wearing tends to show out pressure sensitive points one didn't know one had. I'm NT (as far as I know) and my experience would make me very opposed to foster such a solution on anyone, NT or autistic, or have it fostered on my. – fr13d Dec 3 at 13:27
  • @fr13d That's the thing. You propose (as a company) to buy everyone a set. Then people start complaining like you, or having their personal preferences in padding etc. Then company realise "You know what? We stopped caring. If you want/need one just buy one yourself". At the end you arrive at the "suprising" solution that open space is just bad place to work for anyone and it's better to make smaller, quieter rooms for 3-4 people. Or to set few noise-cancelling phoning booths where anyone can work in peace. – SZCZERZO KŁY Dec 3 at 14:00
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I'm on the high-functioning end of the spectrum, and I can't really add to the various lists of accommodations already present. However, I have had some downright traumatic experiences with intrusive accommodations, so I thought I'd chime in with a few observations.

First of all, it shouldn't need saying but an employee's medical record should be handled on a need-to-know basis, and this includes the autism diagnosis.

Second, don't go imposing accommodations on someone who doesn't want to be accommodated. Once again, it shouldn't need saying but treating someone like they are retarded is rude, as is acting on the presumption that they aren't as good as everyone else. I know that this is not what you're trying to do, but I also know I wouldn't be receptive to that bit of reasoning in this context.

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Two additional suggestions that haven't been suggested:

  • Ear defenders and/or earbuds.

Noise cancelling headphones are a gimmick mostly for any kind of noisy environment. But ear defenders are fantastic. I am not autistic but I really hate loud noises and certain background noises in offices, such as a place I worked with a guy who typed REALLY loudly on the keyboard.

I put in some earbuds for music and then a pair of ear defenders. They're an absolute godsend. Everything becomes serene with them in. I take them to the gym too so I can workout in silence or with my own music/relaxing podcast rather than whatever terrible R&B is blasting out and it mutes ALL of the sound.

They're amazing in noisy office situations.

  • Using IM

You haven't said what profession but a lot of developers, even non-autistic ones, prefer to use IM to communicate, even with people sitting next to them. Especially if they're wired in with music but even without.

Having a good Slack setup or similar, with a corporate culture that encourages using it, will be a godsend for those who prefer to think before they reply to messages.

Emphasis goes to it being a GOOD setup - my current job we use Skype for Business which is hot garbage, it's slow, laggy, completely unintuitive, doesn't support proper rich media, is hard to find people to message and keep things organised etc.

And emphasis goes to corporate culture USING the setup. I've joined many companies with 15 empty slack channels including 'random' and 'fun' channels that have one post three years ago in them. It's important to encourage their use as a valid method of communication.

0

It is impossible to answer this question in its current state. There is no bandaid solution to accommodate the wide range of the autistic spectrum in a list of actions. You can't say "do these three things and people with autism are better accommodated". You can say "this autistic person is stressed by a certain situation, and doing these three things accommodates them".

Autism comes in many different forms, and there is no singular answer as to "how to better accommodate autistic adults". You need to work with an individual you're wanting to accommodate and work on steps to address situations that they find stressful.

Some individuals may need to have primarily written communication to mitigate stress from face to face communication. Other individuals may not be able to work productively in crowded or noisy environments and need some isolation or noise cancellation to mitigate audio distractions. Others might need to be away from windows to mitigate visual distractions. Others may need chairs made of specific materials to mitigate a negative tactile response. Others may need to have a clearly defined list of tasks or a narrow job scope to mitigate stress of the unknown.

You'll need to narrow down what types of behaviors you want to accommodate and address that specific behavior.

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    No, it's easily answerable. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Dec 2 at 16:18
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    @RichardSaysReinstateMonica You misunderstood the nuance of what I was saying. You can't say "do these three things and people with autism are better accommodated". You can say "this autistic person is stressed by a certain situation, and doing X, Y, and Z accommodates them". – JRodge01 Dec 2 at 16:22
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    I'm autistic, I don't get nuuance – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Dec 2 at 16:33
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    "If you know one autist, you know exactly one autist." I'm perfectly aware that this question does not have one answer. But I'm asking for solutions not the single one perfect one-fit all solution. So I think this question is perfectly answerable, as shown by the other answers. – GittingGud Dec 2 at 17:10
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    @JRodge01, I think while there are constraints against highly subjective questions (we do not want it to depends solely on opinions), asking a question that ask for possible solutions is not too far off, especially in SE like workplace and interpersonal, where there are many different experiences about a specific case by people which can be relatively equally valid as an answer, like in this case, where there is some objectivity to it based on what people with autism experiences (which share some characteristics among them). For example, I think the collection of current answers are useful. – justhalf Dec 3 at 3:01

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