Reasonable adjustments at work for autistic people
As soon as I started my current position as a Test Centre Administrator, I immediately disclosed my autism diagnosis to my manager. I understand that disclosing is a controversial thing within the autism community. Many autistic job seekers (myself included, at first) tend to not share that information, mainly out of fear of losing job opportunities. I did this in my first few jobs, particularly in part-time jobs where I was serving customers, but I found that not disclosing put me at risk of not being able to do the job as well as others, impacting my mental health and work relationships in the process. I find that disclosing now gives me the opportunity to get accommodations in the workplace, to help me to do my job and feel comfortable in work.
How to discover your reasonable adjustments
I asked for accommodations when I first met my manager for my induction. She was so understanding and has been supportive throughout my role. My accommodations were naturally not hard to put in place, and so I didn’t need to wait long for any adjustments.
I mostly worked out what I needed based on self-reflection, and what I wished I wanted in previous jobs. For instance, I wished I’d asked more questions in my copywriting job but at the time I was scared of asking questions. But due to being part of a supportive team, I’m no longer scared to ask questions. For anyone who is unsure as to which reasonable adjustments might help them, you can check out the Acas website for some common examples.
Here are a few accommodations I use that are helpful for me.
Using my notebook to write down information
I always write notes in a notebook because I find that I learn visually. When I see the information written down, it’ll be imprinted in my memory and I’ll remember it next time. I also use my book to note down passwords, most particularly the one for the burglar alarm and for my work account. My colleagues are understanding and always give me time to process the information.
Asking lots of questions
I find that asking lots of questions really helps me to learn and make sure I don’t make mistakes. In work, my colleagues have made me feel at ease and have repeatedly told me that it’s fine to ask questions since they always say, “no question is stupid”. I always feel comfortable around my co-workers because of this, and it has helped me grow in my role.
A minute’s break from the computer screen
Being behind a computer screen during five-hour shifts can really strain my eyes and make me more prone to zoning out, which is something I struggle with as an autistic person. I find that having a few moments to look away from my screen and distracting myself by having some water and writing notes in my notebook can make me less prone to freezing up and disconnecting from my surroundings.
A clear routine and work schedule
A clear routine is what I need. When I come into work, I’m told what to expect throughout the day. For instance, one day, I spent a few hours in the invigilator’s room, allocating candidates to workstations and doing security checks with them. The next few hours would then be spent on the front desk, where I would admit candidates, check their passports and driving licences and give out test results.
It can become very chaotic when there are a lot of customers (and difficult ones too), but I always remain calm and focus on providing excellent customer service. I find that the more anxious I am, the more mistakes I make, which is why I try my best to have a clear head when being on the front desk. It has taken me out of my comfort zone and has helped me to build my communication and interpersonal skills.
These are the only accommodations I’ve asked for. I’m aware there are other adjustments, but I find that some of them aren’t useful for the job I’m currently in. For instance, noise-cancelling headphones are great, but they wouldn’t be useful for my job because I need to listen to the speakers to ensure candidates aren’t cheating on their tests.
Thanks to these accommodations and my team’s support, I’ve been growing a lot in my role, and I’m looking forward to learning new things and building new skills.
Written by Charlotte Maguire
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