People with autism can be quite flexible. This is something we discovered recently. We always thought that if you disturb their routine, they will become stressed and will be unable to cope. We have trained our son since his childhood to be very adaptive and always tried to break his routine. We did this because we read so much literature around how routine obsessed people with autism are and did not want him to grow up to be a slave to routine and timetables. So when we started working with people with autism, we started with the assumption that most of them would not be very flexible and adaptive. Slowly, we learned by experimenting that they can be very flexible. At times, when we have to meet a deadline, we change the way we do things. This includes changing workflows, and even changing the layout of our workplace. We discovered that they can be very flexible and adapt wonderfully as long as you explain it to them properly. For example, if we don’t need any more boxes assembled, we tell them to stop that task and get on to the next task of packaging the chocolates, even though their job for the day might have been only to come in and make boxes. They are perfectly fine with switching tasks and moving on to unplanned activity.
They never shirk their duties. I have heard many friends saying that they did nothing at work today or that they have achieved very little at the office today. I must admit while writing this, that the list of people includes me as well! Almost everyone does shirk from time to time. People with autism are different, they will never shirk. It is true that they may not do anything at all but they will show exactly that – do nothing. Unlike many others, who may pretend to work. This also ties in with their lack of hypocrisy.
In my experience money is not important for people with autism –they do not think that it is the be all and the end all. It is good to have, but not essential. Their sense of achievement is more important to them. Most of the time the pay our staff receive just sits in their bank accounts, according to their parents and carers. They are happy to come in on weekends or work longer without expecting an increase in their pay or compensation for overtime. It always surprises them when they receive extra pay for extra work!
They can be excellent supervisors. Like their mainstream peers, some are natural supervisors and others are more comfortable in being supervised. During the past two years, I was always worried about what would happen if I fell ill during a seasonal rush or in the middle of a large corporate order. I was reluctant to take on someone not on the spectrum to be my second in command, but didn’t think any of my current staff were up to the task as they all needed supervision. Luckily I have now found a young girl with Aspergers who is gradually taking on more and more responsibilities. She is also capable of supervising students coming in on work experience placements, and assigning as well as overseeing tasks being done by our regular staff.
It was never my intention to write such a long article. I started with 5 skills but somehow the list kept expanding as my husband and I kept thinking of more skills. I’m sure that there are even more skills and characteristics to share, and we will continue doing so as and when we come across them. Also, for these skills to surface and for people with autism to reach their potential, the work environment has to be supportive. They should feel that the workplace is theirs, somewhere they can be themselves and where their contributions are valued. If more organisations can offer such an environment, they would be amazed at the positive impact people with autism can make on their bottom line. We are very grateful to have found such excellent staff who are thoughtful, dependable and able to deliver.
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Source: Mona Shan: Harry Specters website: What skills do people with autism have?