Wider Inclusion Can Add Valued Employees


Paul Nelson
Non-Executive Director
Scottish Autism

 

Securing satisfying employment, where you feel valued, can be challenging for anyone but for some autistic people, it can be seen as even more of a challenge. It wasn’t until I joined Scottish Autism that I realised how many autistic people there are in Scotland. I have also learned about the struggle many families face as they navigate education, society and importantly work.

Autism is a lifelong developmental condition which affects the way a person communicates, interacts and processes information. The autism spectrum refers to the range of ways the condition can present in an individual which can vary greatly from person to person and throughout their life. While some people will have more subtle difficulties, others will have more complex needs requiring intensive support.

No two autistic people are the same and we recognise that each person has a unique set of needs. We create support plans that are based on an individual’s own strengths, motivations and on achieving outcomes that are meaningful to them. This is the case whether in school, further education or the work setting.

At Scottish Autism we recognise this and have developed a range of innovative services and support, all designed around the wellbeing of autistic people.

Some of the skills that are well suited to a career in the STEM professions such as good maths, problem solving, attention to detail, persistence and excellent analytical skills are some of the skills that many autistic people can have particular strengths in. Although, since engaging more with autistic people, I have learned the importance of challenging stereotypes, and I have been privileged to meet autistic individuals who have potential in other areas of the workforce such as the arts, retail and horticulture, to name a few.

However, it is common for autistic people to experience barriers to accessing employment because of differences in social communication and thought processing style. With the right support in place, employers could really benefit from the unique talents and skills autistic individuals can bring to their workforce. By adopting a more inclusive recruitment approach and improving understanding of autism amongst employers, autistic employees have a better opportunity to excel in a field where their skills are realised and valued as feeling valued is fundamental to everyone’s wellbeing.
Employers can make some simple but helpful adjustments to create a more autism accessible workplace from the initial recruitment and selection process to the actual work environment itself. These can include making sure the application form and guidance are clear and that you encourage the applicant to inform you that they are autistic, so suitable adjustments can be made on appointment.

Some small adjustments can also create a more autism accessible environment including a quiet room or space, desk adjustment, adjusted lighting, noise cancelling headphones, amended working hours or flexible working and a supportive manager/ mentor. Also, think of outside the office and help to support an autistic person with reduced travel or helping them to create a work and travel routine.

At New Struan, Scottish Autism’s Day and Residential School for autistic pupils aged 5 to 19, we recognise the importance of instilling the belief that employment is a realistic and obtainable aim for our young people. We offer work placements within our own charity services; could you do likewise? We are planning to work with Primary Engineering and STEM to provide our pupils with an insight into the opportunities engineering might offer as a career but more importantly, what our pupils’ skills might offer the world of engineering.

If you are looking to better support autistic individuals into work, Scottish Autism can provide tailored training and consultancy opportunities. We also offer corporate partnership opportunities which can bring great benefits to your organisation and help to raise awareness and understanding of autism amongst your staff. We offer free staff training to Charity of the Year partners as well as help to implement changes in your organisation to support autistic people.

We develop a tailored partnership to meet your corporate social responsibility objectives, maximise staff engagement and inspire your customers. There are also lots of fun ways to get involved and raise funds to help Scottish Autism to continue to deliver much needed services and support across Scotland.

If you want to find out more about the work or Scottish Autism, please visit www.scottishautism.org, email autism@scottishautism.org or telephone 01259 720044.

 

The views expressed by the guest writer are not necessarily those of Scottish Engineering