The workplace can be a completely overwhelming experience – especially if you are autistic. It is estimated that one in seven people may be neurodivergent which means someone on your team may have one or more of the conditions that come under the neurodiversity umbrella.

These conditions include dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), Tourette’s Syndrome and autism among others. Neurodiversity means your brain works differently from others with various strengths and weaknesses.

Autistic people may find communication difficult, find it hard to understand how others think or feel, find bright lights or loud noises intrusive and get anxious about unfamiliar situations or events. However, they are fantastic researchers, knowledgeable and creative.

Autism is not a medical condition that can be cured but people may need support or help. Everyone is different and will have different access needs as a result. You can learn more about autism by visiting the NHS website.

There are small wins you can put in place to help autistic colleagues with their workday.

Here are our top five:

1 – Clear communication:

Too much detail can be completely overwhelming for an autistic person – as can too little! Consider what information someone needs to complete a task, and keep the instructions simple and easy to understand with clear steps. Avoid giving multiple ways to do one task as it can get extra confusing but be approachable if someone needs help.

2 – Sensory overload:

Often autistic people can be extra sensitive to loud noise, strong smells or bright lights. Too much of these or a combination can lead to meltdowns/shutdowns where someone reacts to being overstimulated. Reduce artificial lighting where possible or consider using screen filters if you can. Have a quiet space where someone can go if they need to destress or allow someone to wear headphones.

3 – Flexible timing for meetings:

Autistic people can make fantastic researchers as they can become hyperfocused on tasks they enjoy. This does mean they may not notice the time fly by making them late for meetings. Alarms can work but some autistic people may find them too much. Gentle reminders and creating daily to-do lists can help someone factor in meetings. Also, be understanding if someone does miss a meeting and offer to reschedule or fill them in another time.

4 – Allow stimming:

Stimming is a repetitive action, noise or movement that autistic people do that helps them to self-soothe if they are feeling stressed, overwhelmed or tired. It helps them to relax either subconsciously or consciously.. This could be barely noticeable like playing with their hair or a pen or could be loud such as grunts or moans. It may even be rocking back and forth.

The automatic reaction from someone who isn’t aware of what is happening may be to tell someone to stop or to view it as rudeness when this isn’t the case. Allowing someone to stim is perfectly fine and can help someone feel more comfortable.

5 – Regular meetings:

Having a mentor or a one-to-one work coach can really help. This could be a line manager who is autism-aware or someone who is just another team member. It can help create a supportive environment where an autistic colleague can raise any difficulties or ask for extra help if needed. Not to mention that person could help to clear up any instructions or create to-do lists to help them prioritise workloads.

6 – Neurodiversity training can make a difference: We can sometimes forget that not everyone knows what autism is or how some of the traits can affect someone in the workplace. By booking bespoke training, experienced trainers can relate the session to your industry and help staff understand what neurodiversity is and how they can help a customer or team member.

We offer neurodiversity awareness training which you can read about by visiting our website.