To the Employer Hesitant to Hire Someone Because of Autism

Dear Employer,

I understand you’re hesitant to hire someone because of an autism diagnosis. I think as much as an autistic employee deserves the chance to be hired, you also deserve a chance to understand autism and what makes an autistic employee a great addition to your workforce.

When a potential employee discloses she has autism, listen with an open mind and don’t jump to conclusions. Allow the candidate to educate you and take time to educate yourself. There can be a lot of misinformation about autism, especially in adults. Ask the candidate about organizations they would recommend for more information about autism.

Don’t let autism be the reason why you choose a different candidate. Choose the candidate who is the most qualified and who fits in with your vision and goals.

Here are some things that may help you when you decide to hire someone with autism spectrum disorder. It’s important to keep in mind that not all people with autism are the same. The tips I give you may not be applicable to all autistic employees.

1. Be accepting.

We are likely to do things you would consider unusual, such as make repetitive movements or repeat phrases. These are likely examples of stimming, scripting or echolalia, which are different forms of self-regulation. The ability to self-regulate allows autistics to cope with overwhelming environments and situations.

2. Be accommodating.

Often times, autistic employees will need breaks. This may go back to self-regulation and is not a sign of laziness. Personally, I may take a few minutes to go for a walk, spin in my chair or turn the lights off and rock. Taking a break allows me to be more productive in the long run.

3. Be predictable.

Apparently, this is difficult in an office environment. For many autistics, routine increases comfort and allows for a predictability that we may find difficult to come by. Many neurotypicals have told me plans change, and I have to be able to deal with it. It may be easy for you, but it’s extremely difficult for many people on the spectrum. If changes must be made, give as much warning and as much time as possible. Be patient and understand a change of plans may take some time from which to recover. Give your autistic employee the space and time necessary to recover.

4. Be respectful.

Social rules are often difficult for individuals on the spectrum. Eye contact may be difficult. Understand that the lack of eye contact may allow your autistic employee to listen better. Respect your autistic employee’s ability to answer for himself or herself. Sometimes, I have a difficult time getting the words out of my mouth. They get stuck. My silence doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion. Be patient and give your employee time to formulate an adequate response. Alternative forms of communication may be easier for your autistic employee. For some autistics, writing or typing may be easier than speaking. Emails or texts may be the best form of communication for certain employees.

5. Be understanding.

Autistic people operate differently. Neurotypicals often see this manifest itself in stimming or other self-regulatory behaviors, but it begins in the brain. We see things differently. Problems can be solved in multiple ways. What may seem obvious to neurotypicals may not be obvious to someone on the spectrum. Conversely, an autistic employee may see a way to solve a problem a neurotypical wouldn’t. Presume competence. Trust your employee to do his job even if he does it differently than others.

Hiring an autistic employee may be the best decision you make as someone tasked with hiring. Autistic people can be loyal and passionate. We’re honest and not prone to prejudice or tied to social expectations. We will do our job to the best of our ability and will help you see the world differently. Best-selling author Temple Grandin says we are different, not less. Embrace different.

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