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Ten Things You Need to Know About Your Autistic Employee

By Dr. Michelle Garnett and Professor Tony Attwood

In today’s dynamic and diverse workplace, it is crucial to recognize the unique strengths and perspectives that neurodivergent individuals bring to the table. Autistic employees can be a tremendous asset to any organization, provided they are understood, supported, and valued. Here are ten important considerations for employers to keep in mind when interviewing and employing autistic individuals, grounded in research and a strengths-based approach.

  1. Focus on Strengths, Not Stereotypes

    Autistic individuals often possess exceptional abilities in various areas, such as single-minded focus, attention to detail, pattern recognition, and ethical and creative problem-solving. For example, many autistic people excel in roles that require precision and analytical thinking, others excel in the visual and dramatic arts, and others in the caring professions. They often have a strong moral compass, and are loyal, hard-working, committed, and compassionate. Recognizing and valuing these strengths in your autistic employee raises the bar for all employees.

  2. Clear and Direct Communication

    Clear, direct, and unambiguous communication is often the most effective way to interact with autistic individuals. Some autistic people find it challenging to interpret non-verbal cues or implied meanings, whilst others have made an art of it. Others find auditory information a struggle to quickly interpret and later remember. To enhance communication further for some, make it visual. Providing clear instructions and feedback will enhance understanding, performance and motivation.

  3. Structured and Predictable Environment

    Many people dislike change and uncertainty, but it is important to know that for an autistic person these are significant stressors. Thus, a structured work environment with predictable routines can help autistic employees thrive. Sudden changes or chaotic settings can interfere with work performance because they are so stressful. When possible, give advance notice of changes to schedules or tasks, and maintain a consistent work environment.

  4. Sensory Considerations

    Many autistic individuals are sensitive to sensory stimuli such as bright lights, loud noises, or strong smells. Be mindful of the sensory environment and make accommodations as needed. This might include offering noise-cancelling headphones, adjusting lighting, or providing a quiet, uncluttered workspace. Offering a retreat space where there is a very minimal sensory load can go a long way to assisting an autistic person to re-calibrate as needed throughout their working hours. Conduct a sensory assessment of the workplace with your employee and regularly check in to ensure that any adjustments are working.

  5. Inclusive Interview Techniques

    Traditional interview processes tend not to showcase the strengths of autistic candidates. Consider alternative interview methods such as practical assessments, work trials, or having an autistic interviewer on the panel. This allows candidates to demonstrate their abilities in a comfortable setting. If a candidate has disclosed their autism prior to interview, reach out to ask about any adjustments that help them feel more at ease, including sensory adjustments for the setting, like wearing a visor, or providing interview questions in advance.

  6. Support for Social Interactions

    Social interactions in the workplace can be challenging for both the autistic and non-autistic employees. Offer support, such as a mentor, to your autistic employees and organise training in autism for your nonautistic employees. Co-discover team-building activities that are inclusive and respectful of neurodiversity. For example, an autistic employee may not enjoy a weekend away with work colleagues with no space to recharge their battery in solitude, especially if the expectation is nonstop socialising.

  7. Reasonable Accommodations

    Under different legislation in different countries, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to autistic employees. These might include sensory accommodations as above, flexible work hours, remote work options, or specific tools and technologies. However, any accommodations are severely undermined when there is workplace stigma for asking for them or seeing them implemented. Organise training in autism for staff to debunk common myths and misconceptions and to teach about the realities of autism to directly fight negative stigma. Discuss openly with the employee to determine what accommodations are necessary for their success. Check in with other employees about their needs also, many accommodations for autistic people work very well for humans in general.

  8. Focus on Connection and Well-being

    Autistic individuals may be more prone to anxiety or stress, especially in a work environment that is not accommodating. A non-accommodating work environment tells the person that their concerns are not important, and even worse, not valid. Autistic people are very perceptive of emotional atmosphere. If they feel unsupported, they are likely to feel unsafe, and their well-being will be affected. Promote a culture of connection and well-being by offering resources such as a focus on healthy relationships at work that are driven by caring and respect, access to stigma-free counselling services as needed for all employees, stress management programmes, and creating a supportive, flexible work environment. All employees will benefit.

  9. Professional Development Opportunities

    Invest in the professional development of autistic employees. Provide opportunities for further training and career advancement. Recognize their potential for growth and offer pathways for them to enhance their skills and advance within the company. Autistic employees, like all employees, suffer stress when there are too many demands or too few. Many autistic people are driven, achievement-oriented, thrive on being challenged and love learning.

  10. Create an Inclusive Culture

    Fostering an inclusive workplace culture benefits everyone. Educate all employees about neurodiversity and the value it brings to the organization. Encourage empathy, respect, and understanding. Celebrate the contributions of autistic employees and ensure they feel valued and included.


Employing autistic individuals is not just about compliance with legal requirements; it is about embracing diversity and reaping the benefits of a diverse workforce. By understanding and accommodating the unique needs of autistic employees, employers can create a more inclusive, productive, and innovative workplace. This approach not only benefits autistic individuals but also enhances the overall organizational culture, leading to greater success and fulfillment for all employees.

Where to from here?

We have prepared a half-day training on autism, Autism Working, for employers, autistic and non-autistic employees, autistic people looking for work, and parents and family members. We will be discussing the advantages of autism in the workplace, common challenges, and ways to navigate the challenges successfully.