Skip to content

Autism in the Workplace: Why is It Beneficial and 4 Tips to Work with Them

    Illustration of Autism at Work (NeurodistinctTM/Tim Goldstein)
    Illustration of Autism at Work (NeurodistinctTM/Tim Goldstein)

    It cannot be denied that people with autism are flourishing these days — thanks to collaborative efforts between civil society groups and the government. They are now exposed to countless opportunities so they can live life and show their potential, thrive in education, participate in sport competitions, and build their own career. Well, do you know that their presence can be beneficial not only for a company but also for the people around them?

    Person with Autism in Workplace: Insights from Singapore

    The biggest private healthcare service in Singapore, IHH Healthcare Singapore (IHH SG), employed 15 people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). One of them was William Low, who assumed the duty of checking patient records for discrepancies in the corporate planning department. While Low generally performed quite well in the job he loved very much, he sometimes neglected his work and needed a job coach to help him stay on track.

    Another story talked about Khor Kuan Min who worked in the research and administrative section of MOH Holdings Singapore. For him, it was not easy for a person with Asperger’s Syndrome to adapt and socialize with others, especially when there was a lack of support during his earlier days. However, he finally proved his capability thanks to the growing awareness of company industries and easier access to specialized training.

    The Autism Resource Centre is part of the Autism Network Singapore, also comprising the Autism Association, Asian Women’s Welfare Association, Rainbow Centre and St. Andrew’s Autism Centre. (Photo: Ang Hwee Min)
    The Autism Resource Centre is part of the Autism Network Singapore, also comprising the Autism Association, Asian Women’s Welfare Association, Rainbow Centre, and St. Andrew’s Autism Centre. (Photo: Ang Hwee Min)

    Jacelyn Lim, Executive Director of Autism Resource Center (ARC) Singapore — the non-profit organization that IHH SG and MOH Holdings collaborated with — stated that in reality, ASD people are remarkable employees, and many of them have more than five years of career experience. With further support via training, proper placement, and other special accommodations in the workplace, they can become a competent workforce while raising people’s awareness toward autism integration in the professional sector.

    Lim’s institution specializes in this area and, since 2012, has endorsed employment to more than 400 ASD employees and cooperated with 40 companies. In order to bolster this training program, ARC partnered with two other organizations. The first is Avanade Asia, one of the many branches of Avanade International — an IT company established by Microsoft and Accenture. Meanwhile, the second is Vital, a Singapore-based public service agency.

    Moreover, the employment of ASD people is not without logical reasons. High attention to detail, good performance in routine tasks, and persistence are some of the traits that make them efficient employees. Hence, people like William Low and Khor Kuan Min are suitable for administrative work. James Mahoney of JPMorgan Chase stated that an ASD person with proper job placement shows 140% more productivity than neurotypical persons. They are also commended for their out-of-the-box thinking and outstanding technical skills.

    An article published on the ASEAN webpage says that Southeast Asia has approximately 6 million people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Various organizations and foundations dedicated to ASD support were established in respective ASEAN countries. Whereas, the region itself has ASEAN Autism Network that has stood since December 2010, giving thorough support for people with ASD and their families.

    4 Tips for Working with ASD People

    Photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash
    Photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash

    Interacting and doing mundane activities with ASD people such as playing video games and sports may be relatively easy, but when it comes to working with them in a corporate setting, the story might be different. However, as research and stories on the topic have spread across the internet, there are tips on how to make working with ASD people easier, including the 4 below.

    1. Task Assignment Should Come with Details and Impact Explanation.

    It is important to let ASD people understand specifically what tasks they have to finish, why it needs to be done,  the specific method to get the job done, what result or positive impact they can get from the task, and other necessary information. It is necessary because an ASD person’s brain works differently from neurotypical persons, and they usually need more time to process a set of information.

    2. Recognize Their Habit During Work.

    Do ASD people prefer to stay alone in a quiet workspace? Do they need at least one person to accompany them? Do they perform better if a “reward” is promised? Some facilities such as a quiet workspace can be provided immediately, while others need a more careful approach, such as the reward system. Giving a physical reward could be out of the budget, hence certain activities like allowing them to listen to music are a better alternative. In William Low’s case, his job coach granted him an internet surfing incentive should he finish the previous job with only a maximum of two mistakes while waiting for another task.

    3. Apply Inclusivity in the Workplace

    People with ASD need special treatment because they have a special condition, such as disliking crowds or becoming anxious when meeting new people. Some of the effective inclusive practices that can be implemented include the decrease of light brightness in areas where there are those highly sensitive to it, interview methods that do not require them to maintain eye contact, provision of assistive devices if needed and more.

    4. Be a Great Working Partner.

    Holding a routine sharing session is important in creating a safe space where ASD people can express their problems, request for support in doing their job, or simply tell their stories. Listen to them and give a response if it is necessary. Appreciate their achievements, correct their mistakes, invite them to small fun activities, say “Hello!” every morning, or interact with them throughout the day just like what you usually do with your circle of friends. Creating rapport and making them feel like they are part of the team is important to build their trust in the company and potentially increase performance.

    It is a worthwhile experience to work with an autistic person. It will definitely boost your interpersonal skills, inspire innovations in working methods, and give you an opportunity to befriend people from different backgrounds. As long as they are capable of handling the job’s requirements, they would show impressive results and can even be the best colleague you will ever have. Moreover, you may also have a “fair competition” to see who is better!

    Article by: Madda Asyafa Putra

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *