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Autism and the Workplace: Dispelling the Myths

Category: Blogger's Corner, disability, Recruitment, Autism, Belief

Autism and the Workplace: Dispelling the Myths

Though our understanding of autism has made great strides, there remain a large number of myths about the condition which are taken as read. These myths stretch from misunderstandings about the nature of autism, to inaccurate beliefs about how people with autism will be treated by employers. For example, it’s still common belief that:

  • Autism is not considered a ‘disability’ in law, and so no help is available in the workplace

This belief goes hand-in-hand with the misconception that autistic people need no help in the workplace. Since autism is often seen – wrongly – as a condition which only brings positives, people also assume that it isn’t considered a disability. Legally, though, disability provision in the Equality Act 2010 applies to autism[1], and employers are obliged to provide autistic employees with reasonable adjustments should these be required[2].

  • Recruiters will automatically discriminate against somebody they know is autistic

It’s still commonly believed by autistic people – and among disabled people in general – that disclosure can only bring negative results, so it’s better to hide your disability as best you can. Personally, I’ve found this to be more true in smaller or medium-sized businesses, who may not have the revenue to provide adjustments, it’s misguided when it comes to large businesses. These companies can afford adjustments, and they’re also quite aware that more diversity in business – including people with various kinds of disability – leads to better decisions being made[3][4]. They’re also required to carry out diversity audits under law, and don’t want to be seen to be unrepresentative of society; as a result, several are actively targeting disabled graduates and school leavers[5]. Disclosure can often benefit a person’s chances[6], since they’ll be able to stand out and demonstrate how they’ve overcome adversity with a personal example.

  • Autism only affects a person’s social skills

It’s true that autism is associated with cognitive impairment when it comes to key interpersonal skills, such as perspective-taking and self-regulation. But this isn’t all autism is; it’s also a sensory disorder. Autistic people are often affected by sensations like touch, smell, taste, sound etc. differently to non-autistic people; whether we’re hypo or hyper-sensitive (in plain English, under- or over-), to what magnitude, and in which sense(s) depends entirely on the individual[7]. It’s often these sensory difficulties which cause autistic people to act ‘oddly’ in social situations; if these are accommodated, a lot of issues are alleviated[8].

And these three are just a handful of common myths. I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, as well as my five previous blogs on the subject – if nothing else, I hope they’ve helped you understand the complexity of the autism spectrum, and how the simplistic myths often banded about on autistic behaviour are often wide of the mark.

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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email [email protected] for more information.

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