Successful onboarding and training of a new autistic employee is a chance to set everyone up for long-term success. Consider the following:
Consider allowing a job coach to work with the employee and the workplace. Job coaches can help teach employers and other employees how to best work with and understand their Autistic co-workers. They can also help the Autistic employee learn the job, help navigate social situations, implement appropriate adjustments/accommodations, and transition to independence.
Consider designating an empathetic and knowledgeable co-worker as a mentor to help the Autistic employee with things such as understanding the culture of the workplace, providing feedback on interpersonal interactions, helping to navigate social situations, clarifying work roles and duties, and managing unclear or unexpected situations. Having a clearly assigned person to go to for help, to train, or to answer questions as needed may help Autistic employees feel more comfortable in navigating their new workspace.
Work with your employee with Autism to learn what accommodations they may require to be successful at the job. These are often simple and inexpensive adjustments and can help even the playing field for Autistic employees. Be sure to check in frequently to determine if the accommodations are working or if they need to be re-evaluated.
Consider allowing a gradual start with fewer and shorter shifts at the beginning. This allows Autistic employees to learn at their own pace with time to process what they have learned, leading to increased confidence and independence down the road.
People with Autism are often visual learners. Any instructions provided verbally should also be provided in a written or visual format so that they have a reference to look back on. This helps with any short-term memory or executive functioning difficulties that may cause an Autistic employee to forget details or miss-steps. Further, any job expectations should be measurable and direct. For example, telling an employee you expect a task done in 15 minutes rather than “quickly”. Provide checklists of tasks that a new employee must accomplish during training or for their daily duties. Be clear about who they should go to in order to receive help with different types of issues as they may have difficulties understanding social hierarchies. It can be beneficial to write down who to ask for help and when. For small concerns have a designated mentor. For bigger concerns, specific tasks, and scheduling make a list of people or supervisors the employee can go to for assistance.
For example: Retail
- Help with clocking in – ask Tom (mentor)
- Questions about where products are- ask Tom (mentor)
- Dealing with customer complaints- ask Dan (supervisor)
- Questions about breaks and scheduling- Dan (supervisor)
- Questions about bullying or discrimination – Carol (HR)
Make sure to provide support and training for any required skills. Reference guides, scripts for common interactions, and knowing exactly what IS expected will go a long way to set up your employee for success.
Assign appropriate jobs
The uneven skill profile of autistic individuals can make it hard to find appropriate jobs. Remember that newly learned skills may not spontaneously transfer to different tasks or settings. Learn what their unique strengths are and try to find suitable jobs to meet their strengths. This may mean tailoring specific work tasks to your employee’s strengths rather than having a predetermined set of roles and duties.
Check in with Autistic employees
Ensure the autistic employee has fully understood your instructions in order to avoid any miscommunications. Providing information in both verbal and written forms provides a reference for people with autism to refer back so that they don’t forget important details. This is particularly important when starting a job as there is often a lot of information (e.g. policies, benefit packages etc.) presented all at once. Highlight important information and ensure they understand their roles, responsibilities, and rights. Encourage them to ask questions when they don’t understand. Autistic job seekers who were interviewed frequently expressed that they did not take sick days or vacation because they were not properly informed of their benefits or how to use them.