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Autism in the workplace

Warneken Consulting Ltd

In this blog I will be talking about autistic people that sit on the high functioning part of the autistic spectrum.   I am not medically trained; by education and career I am a nuclear marine engineer.  My knowledge and understanding are based upon 50 years of personal experience and a great deal of more of the understanding behind the autistic condition I have received from my consultant psychiatrist and consultant psychologist who specialises in autism.

About 3 years ago at the age of 47 I was diagnosed with Asperger’s condition, which is a "high functioning" part of the autistic spectrum (ASD).  My diagnosis also included having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) which is commonly associated with ASD.

One of the difficulties that those of us with ASD have is reading and understanding non-verbal communication .  About 70% of the communication between people is non-verbal with the remaining 30% being verbal.  One of the many characteristics associated with ASD is that it is (sometimes very) difficult for us to read and interpret body language with the consequently effects thereof. The corollary of this being that those of us with ASD rely almost entirely on only the 30% of all inter-personnel communication and as such do not see, understand or comprehend the remaining 70%.

Imagine living in a country where you can only understand  / read about 30% of the its vocabulary.  No matter what you do, and because of your genetics, you find it incredibly difficult to learn any more of the language and vocabulary?  This is our world.

Within the workplace environment poor communication can often result in a breakdown of understanding individuals. As such people can sometimes be viewed as being difficult to manage, understand and work with. Unless you can effectively communicate with those who have ASD (and a huge majority of people can’t) then resentment and frustration can build up. 

Invariably this is down to a fundamental misunderstanding of how those of us who are autistic people process and respond to information.  Consequently, these highly intelligent employees are often poorly managed and their skills under-utilised.

Autism is covered under the Equality Act of 2010 (see Page 41 of Equality Act 2010 Guidance) as such carries the same requirement to make adequate adjustment for autistic employees as any other “disability” (as it is deemed).  As well as communication difficulties this Act also covers many other characteristics that those of us with ASD have that may be require reasonable adjustment to be made.

At Warneken Consulting we can provide training and advice to businesses on effective communication and management of your autistic employees.

There are many other considerations associated with the autistic condition that can affect the requirement to provide adequate adjustment at work.

If you are interested in learning more about any training / advice I may be able to provide to your business please contact me via email or via my website.

Andrew Warneken
Warneken Consulting Ltd
andrew@warnekenconsulting.org