Job Training for Autistic Adults
Until recently, challenges experienced by autistic individuals all but barred them from the workforce, but employers are starting to recognize the value that neurodiverse employees can bring. It can be challenging to implement a program of job training for autistic adults, but ensuring that you have given all of your employees the tools they need to succeed is a critical part of building a successful workforce.
Below are a few specific points that can be broadly applied (though refined for each individual employee on a case by case basis) to neurodiverse staff during their training.
Finding Neurodiverse Employees’ Strengths
One of the first things to determine in job training geared towards neurodiversity is what type of tasks a person is most suited for. This is no different for neurodiverse employees than it is for your neurotypical ones, and there are many ways to determine a worker’s strengths, regardless of the career they have chosen.
An assessment test can help you identify what your employees will excel at, or you can employ a more holistic method and give them a chance to try out various roles and responsibilities and make note of when and where they are most productive.
There are some tasks that neurodiverse individuals typical perform well on, like pattern recognition and recalling fine detail and sequences that pair well with data entry or research, but don’t make assumptions or pigeonhole your employees.
Tools for Training & Retaining Neurodiverse Employees
It can be helpful, according to many experts, to include visual learning when explaining tasks, or to at least provide options. This means, at a minimum, written instructions as well as spoken ones, but might also include charts, graphs, diagrams, and hands on demonstrations. When mentoring, pay close attention to what specific modes of teaching they resonate with and refine that aspect of your teaching. Not only are reasonable accommodations required by the ADA, but providing them will ensure that your neurodiverse employees feel welcome and are set up for success.
Another useful tool for the trainer is the development of a job map -- a drawn, visual representation of the employees strengths as they relate to the job in question. This can be a great tool to clearly define the strengths and weaknesses of an individual on paper to more fully develop the approach taken while on the job.
Emphasize Soft Skills
A focus on brushing up on soft skills can be helpful when implementing job training for autistic adults. This type of training is universally helpful whether neurotypical or neurodiverse, but it can be especially helpful for people on the autism spectrum. Additional domains such as eye contact and understanding body language, though seemingly intuitive, may need to be training focuses as well for this population.
Services like Daivergent can help by providing third-party resources, like shared interest groups, community forums, and instant messaging tools specifically aimed at developing your neurodiverse employees. Combining in-person and online tools can help to promote a positive environment for your neurodiverse employees.
Build in Flexibility
It is well-established that a “one size fits all” approach to training doesn’t work if you’re trying to build a diverse workplace, but make sure that you’re accommodating of all forms of diversity. Just as you would want to make sure to make your training and workplace is welcoming to a person of color or a member of the LGBTQ community, you should do the same for your neurodiverse employees.
Some of these accommodations are more minor, such as ensuring that common sources of overstimulation — bright lights, loud noises, excessive conversation — are limited, but you might also want to consider giving neurodiverse trainees more time, or allowing flexibility in how they approach the training. Remember, the goal is to integrate these employees into your team and help them be successful and productive members of your workforce.
Respect Your Employees & Their Needs
Neurodiverse employees, including those on the autism spectrum, are an asset to your workplace, even though it may require some adjustment on the part of your HR department and management team to give them the opportunity to thrive.
Properly setting your neurodiverse and autistic employees up for success by providing the right job training will ensure they have a greater chance to excel as valuable members of your team.
Opinions expressed by Daivergent contributors are their own.