Preparing People With Special Needs For The Workplace
Hi, my name is Leanne, I’m 26 years old and have Asperger’s syndrome. I know from experience that it can be very hard for people with autism or other special needs to get and keep a job and that for some, having any job can be a dream come true.
Here are some examples of good vs. bad workplace choices, to help people with autism and other special needs to understand how to succeed in the workplace.
Good: Megan almost always comes to work looking and smelling clean and professional. She always showers in the morning before she leaves for work, or the night before. If she doesn’t have time to do so in the morning, she just freshens up quickly in the bathroom. She also usually comes to work in uniform or following the company’s dress code and grooming standards.
Bad: Paul constantly shows up for work looking or smelling unclean or unprofessional. His hair is often unkempt. He also constantly shows up for work not in uniform, or not in compliance with the company’s dress code or grooming standards.
“Early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable”
Good: Josh almost always shows up on time (or even a few minutes early) for work. When he does show up late, it is usually for reasons that are beyond his control (such as an appointment), and he almost always calls his place of work to inform of his situation, or if possible, tells them ahead of time.
Bad: Jim regularly arrives late to work, and it is usually for reasons that are within his control. He also very rarely calls his place of work to inform them of his situation or tells them ahead of time.
Allowing yourself extra time to get to work
Good: Susan knows that it usually takes her about an hour to get to work, but she usually leaves about an hour and a half to two hours before she needs to be at work. She does this so she can have enough time to account for road delays. If she does arrive at work early enough, she will usually go window shopping at nearby stores, or go into a nearby café and have something to eat.
Bad: Samantha knows that it usually takes her about half an hour to get to work. However, she usually leaves about half an hour before she needs to be at work.
Blaming vs. taking responsibility for your actions
Good: Dave says to his supervisor, “Sorry, I’m late for work. Maybe I should try getting up earlier tomorrow, so I can have more time to get ready. Or maybe I can try showering at night, so that in the morning, I can just freshen up quickly in the bathroom. Or maybe I can ask my partner if I can shower first.”
Bad: Gary says to his supervisor, “Sorry I’m late, but I had to stop at so many traffic lights, and I had to wait at so many crosswalks, and there was so much road construction.”
Reporting vs. tattling
Reporting (good): Courtney says to her supervisor, “Lisa is behaving in a way that is making me feel very scared and confused.”
Tattling (bad): Richard says to his supervisor, “I couldn’t get a snack because Charlie took too long at the vending machine.”
Following company policies
Good: Dan always follows the company’s rules and policies, unless it is an issue regarding his safety or the safety of others, and there is not a better way to handle the situation.
Bad: Cody does not follow any of the company’s rules or policies if they do not make sense to him, or if he does not see a reason to do so.
Following directions given by your supervisor or manager
Good: ShaNae always follows directions given by her supervisor or manager, unless it is an issue regarding her safety or the safety of others, and there is not a better way to handle the situation.
Bad: Carol does not follow any directions given by her supervisor or manager, if they do not make sense to her, or if she does not see a reason to do so.
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Staying busy while working
Good: When Amber’s tasks are done long before her shift is over, or when work is slow, Amber will ask her supervisor if there are more tasks. If her supervisor does not have any other jobs for her, Amber will say, “Okay, well, I’ll be here, let me know if you notice anything else that needs to be done. In the meantime, I will go around and ask others if they need my help.”
Bad: When Mike’s tasks are done long before his shift is over, or when work is slow, Mike will goof off or go hang out in the break room until his shift ends.
Demeanor toward co-workers and authority figures
Good: Becki always tries to treat her co-workers and supervisor with at least the same amount of respect she would like to be treated with. If she disagrees with a co-worker or her supervisor, she will let him/her know in a calm, respectful, polite manner, and if necessary, tries to come to a compromise. When a compromise can not be made, Becki will seek help.
Bad: Kevin often mocks, yells at, maliciously teases, name-calls, and overall disrespects his co-workers and supervisor. If he disagrees with a co-worker or his supervisor, he will become defensive or mouth off to them.
Demeanor toward customers, if working in a position where one deals with the public
Good: Kyle always tries to treat customers with at least the same amount of respect with which he would like to be treated. When a customer has a complaint, he apologizes sincerely and tries to correct the problem. If necessary, Kyle will forward the customer’s complaint to the appropriate person.
Bad: Sherry is often rude and disrespectful to customers. When a customer comes to her with a complaint, she will often say things like, “Sucks to be you,” or, “But it wasn’t my fault.”
This article was featured in Issue 93 – ASD Advice for Today and Tomorrow