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Hiring autistic people: small adjustments make a big difference

Posted on from Changeboard

Only 32% of autistic adults are in some form of paid employment. With so many people looking for work, does your business make the small adjustments that could open up a diverse talent pool?

As part of their ‘Too Much Information’ campaign to raise awareness of the skills autistic people can bring to the workplace, the National Autistic Society has found that over three quarters of unemployed autistic people are looking for work.

In a poll of over 2,000 autistic adults, the charity found that 77% of respondents that aren’t in work are looking for a paid position.

Just under 16% of respondents are currently in full-time employment, a figure that has remained static since 2007. Only 32% of respondents are in some kind of paid work. Four in ten said they’ve never worked.

Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society said: “Autistic people have a huge contribution to make to our economy and society, including in the workplace. But our research shows that autistic people are being failed by Government programmes and overlooked by employers – in many cases because of misconceptions about what autism is and worries about getting it wrong.”

The charity are calling on HR managers to recognise the value of hiring autistic people, citing tenacity, an ability to think differently and attention to detail as the skills that the estimated 450,000 autistic people in the UK can bring to businesses.

While tech companies such as Microsoft have recognised the skills that autistic people can bring to their industry, around 11% of respondents expressed a desire to work in the arts. 

In a recent YouGov poll, 60% of employers said they worry about getting support for autistic employees wrong. 

By making small adjustments such as making sure their staff understand autism and how to communicate clearly, asking autistic employees their preferred mode of communication or allowing autistic employees to wear headphones if they’re being overwhelmed with ‘too much information’, employers need not feel they are unable to support their prospective employees. 

Lever added: “Not all autistic people are able to work. But many are and are desperate to find a job which reflects their talent and interests. With a little understanding and adjustments to the recruitment process and workplace, they can be a real asset. We certainly couldn’t do the work we do without our autistic colleagues.

“It’s often the smallest changes that make the biggest difference - like making all staff aware of autism or giving an autistic employee instructions in written form if they have trouble processing spoken information, or allowing them to wear ear defenders or listen to music if they’re highly sensitive to sound and are feeling overwhelmed by too much information.” 

As part of the campaign, the National Autistic Society has launched a new series of resources to allow employers to better understand integrating autistic people into their workforce. 


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