"“Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others” (NAS, 2020).
Weston College is a Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Centre for Excellence and a Queen’s Anniversary Prize winner for our outstanding inclusive practice.
This means we have a wealth of knowledge and expertise which we're keen to share with employers.
At Weston College we have specialist practitioners in Autism available to conduct workplace assessments and offer advice and guidance to not only the employee but employer, so please don’t hesitate to get in contact with the team to request this support.
It is important to remember that there are positives to thinking differently. Although autistic people may experience some of the difficulties listed above, they are known to be creative thinkers artistically and linguistically, who value problem solving as well as practicality. Ensuring employees with learning difficulties are supported effectively will enable you to harness the true potential and diverse skill set within your workforce.
Get in touch today to talk about how we can help support your organisation.
How your business can benefit
Our specialist staff work closely with you to help you understand the needs of apprentices. This will allow you to match appropriate job roles with learners and enable them to work independently and autonomously.
What is Autism?
There are around 700,000 autistic people in the UK who may require different levels of support, as some autistic people may also have learning disabilities, mental health issues or other conditions.
Research into the exact cause of Autism suggests that a combination of genetic and environmental factors, result in differences in development. The characteristics of autism vary from one person to another, but an individual who is on the Autism Spectrum may demonstrate some of the following:
• A sense of feeling overwhelmed by the world due to the unpredictability and confusing nature of day to day life, which can result in considerable anxiety
• Autistic individuals have a very literal understanding of language, and think people always mean exactly what they say. They may find it difficult to use or understand facial expressions, tone of voice, jokes and sarcasm
• Some individuals on the autistic spectrum may not speak, or have fairly limited speech. Other individuals may have good language skills, but still find it difficult to understand the expectations of others within a conversation
• Autistic people often have difficulty 'reading' other people’s feelings and intentions. They find it hard to express their own emotions, making it very difficult to interact socially and form friendships. They may appear to be insensitive, seek out time alone when overloaded by other people, not seek comfort from other people and/ or appear to behave 'strangely' or in a way thought to be socially inappropriate
• Many autistic people have highly focused interests, which are reported to be fundamental to their wellbeing and happiness
• Autistic people may also experience over- or under-sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light, colours, temperatures or pain.
If you have an employee that is autistic it is important to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace that will help reduce stress, increase morale and motivation, aiding reduced staff turnover and sickness leave.
Supporting Employees in the Workplace
If an employee wishes to obtain a diagnosis further guidance on the referral process can be found on the National Autistic Society website (https://www.autism.org.uk/about/diagnosis.aspx).
A consultation with a GP initially needs to be undertaken in order for a referral to be made. A multi-disciplinary team, will use a variety of diagnostic tools to determine to what extent persistent difficulties with social communication and social interaction since early childhood, have limited and impaired everyday functioning.
If you have an employee that is is on the Autistic Spectrum it is important to make adjustments, as this will help reduce stress, increase morale and motivation, which may result in reduced staff turnover and sickness leave.
Effective changes within the workplace do not have to be expensive or time-consuming. It is often small organisational changes that can help an individual get the very best from their employees and make a dramatic difference.
It is important to discuss and identify with the employee what adjustments would be beneficial.
Things to consider include:
• Facilitating their daily routine that involves travelling to work the same way, eating the same foods will help reduce stress and anxiety
• Maximise natural light in the workplace and keep background noise to a minimum
• Minimising displays, clutter and distractions around their desk space
• Support oral instructions with visual illustrations
• Set tasks with clear goals in step by step form
• State Employee’s name before stating an instruction
• Give short simple instructions. Give one at a time and check for understanding, support with a sequenced series of pictures
• Avoid or explain metaphorical language
• Allow employee to work alone rather than in a group where possible, if in a group give clear roles within the group and put the rules and roles into writing
• If an employee becomes anxious, allow him/ her to remove themselves to an agreed calm-down area.
• Explain any unplanned changes of routine to the individual in advance
• Being reciprocal to alternative means of communication, such as sign language or visual symbols, for example a card to display when they want help
• Model to the employee that making mistakes is OK and part of the learning process
• Awareness staff training to reduce the likelihood of Autism masking
• Flexibility over the start and end times of the day
• Allocated mentor.
Although employers are bound by the Equality Act 2010 to treat employees fairly, some demonstrate that they are particularly positive about employing and retaining disabled people and they demonstrate this by placing a' disability confident’ symbol on their job adverts.
The disability confident symbol is a government initiative, which aims to encourage an employer to make specific commitments regarding the employment of disabled people. These commitments are:
• To interview all disabled applicants who meet the minimum criteria for a job vacancy and to consider them on their abilities
• To discuss with disabled employees, at any time but at least once a year, what both parties can do to make sure disabled employees can develop and use their abilities
• To make every effort when employees become disabled to make sure they stay in employment
• To take action to ensure that all employees develop the appropriate level of disability awareness needed to make these commitments work
• To review these commitments each year and assess what has been achieved, plan ways to improve on them and let employees and Jobcentre Plus know about progress and future plans.
If an employer engages in this scheme, an individual with a disability is guaranteed an interview if they meet the minimum conditions for the job vacancy.
Please visit: https://disabilityconfident.campaign.gov.uk, to learn more about this scheme.
If you would like to learn more about different learning difficulties, Weston College offer a range of online CPD courses to further your knowledge and understanding. Courses on offer include:
• Awareness of Mental Health Certificate (level 2)
• Behaviour that Challenges (level 2)
• Specific Learning Difficulties (level 2)
• Understanding Autism (level 2)
• Working with Learners with Specific Learning Disabilities (level 2)
• Working with People with Mental Health Needs (level 2)
Alternatively, if you would like any bespoke training delivered in a specific area please don’t hesitate to contact the apprenticeship support team to discuss this further.