Teens and adults with Aspergers (high functioning autism) may experience some of the limitations discussed below, but seldom develop all of them. Also, the degree of limitation will vary. Be aware that not all teens and adults with Aspergers will need accommodations to perform their jobs, and many others may only need a few accommodations.
1. Employees with Aspergers may have difficulty communicating with co-workers or supervisors.
- Allow worker to have a friend or coworker attend meeting to reduce or eliminate the feeling of intimidation.
- Allow worker to provide written response in lieu of verbal response.
- Provide advance notice of date of meeting when worker is required to speak to reduce or eliminate anxiety.
- Provide advance notice of topics to be discussed in meetings to help facilitate communication.
2. Employees with Aspergers may experience difficulty managing time. This limitation can affect their ability to complete the task within a specified timeframe. It may also be difficult to prepare for, or to begin, work activities.
- Divide large assignments into several small tasks.
- Provide a checklist of assignments.
- Set a timer to make an alarm after assigning ample time to complete a task.
- Supply an electronic or handheld organizer, and train on how to use effectively.
- Use a wall calendar to emphasize due dates.
3. Employees with Aspergers may exhibit atypical body movements such as fidgeting. Atypical body movements are sometimes called stimulatory behavior, or "stimming." These body movements often help calm the person or assist them in concentrating on tasks, but can also disturb co-workers at times.
- Allow worker to use items such as hand-held squeeze balls and similar objects to provide sensory input or calming effect.
- Allow the worker to work from home.
- Provide private workspace where worker will have to room to move about and also not disturb other by movements such as fidgeting.
- Provide structured breaks to create an outlet for physical activity.
- Review conduct policy with worker.
- Schedule periodic rest breaks away from the workstation.
4. Employees with Aspergers may not be familiar with or understand abstract concepts like corporate structure, hierarchies of responsibility, reporting requirements, and other structural elements of the workplace.
- Adjust method of supervision to better prepare worker for feedback, disciplinary action, and other communication about job performance.
- xplain corporate structure to worker, using visual charts and clear descriptions of positions and reporting structure. Do not assume that worker will understand structure from a simple chart of job titles.
- Povide concrete examples to explain consequences of violating company policy.
- Provide concrete examples to explain expected conduct.
- Review conduct policy with worker.
- Use services of the Worker Assistance Program (EAP) if available.
5. Employees with Aspergers may have difficulty managing stress in the workplace. Situations that create stress can vary from person to person, but could likely involve heavy workloads, unrealistic timeframes, shortened deadlines, or conflict among coworkers.
- Allow worker to make telephone calls for support.
- Allow the presence and use of a support animal.
- Modify work schedule.
- Provide praise and positive reinforcement.
- Provide sensitivity training for workforce.
- Refer to EAP.
6. Employees with Aspergers may experience decreased concentration. They report intolerance to distractions such as office traffic, worker chatter, and common office noises such as fax tones and photocopying.
• To reduce tactile distractions: Instruct other workers to approach the Aspergers employee in a way that is not startling, such as approaching from behind, touching the worker, or other tactile interactions, if the worker is bothered by those interactions.
• To reduce auditory distractions:
- Hang sound absorption panels
- Provide a white noise machine
- Purchase a noise canceling headset
- Redesign worker's office space to minimize audible distractions
- Relocate worker's office space away from audible distractions
• To reduce visual distractions:
- Install space enclosures (cubicle walls)
- Redesign worker's office space to minimize visual distractions
- Reduce clutter in the worker's work environment
- Relocate worker's office space away from visual distractions
7. Employees with Aspergers may have difficulty getting or staying organized, or have difficulty prioritizing tasks at work. The worker may need assistance with skills required to prepare and execute complex behavior like planning, goal setting, and task completion.
- Allow supervisor to prioritize tasks.
- Assign a mentor to help worker.
- Assign new project only when previous project is complete.
- Develop color-code system for files, projects, or activities.
- Provide a "cheat sheet" of high-priority activities, projects, people, etc.
- Use a job coach to teach/reinforce organization skills.
- Use the services of a professional organizer.
- Use weekly chart to identify daily work activities.
8. Employees with Aspergers may have difficulty exhibiting typical social skills on the job. This might manifest itself as interrupting others when working or talking, difficulty in listening, not making eye contact when communicating, or difficulty interpreting typical body language or nonverbal innuendo. This can affect the individual's ability to adhere to conduct standards, work effectively with supervisors, or interact with coworkers or customers.
• Social skills on the job:
- Encourage all workers to use appropriate social skills.
- Provide a job coach to help understand different social cues.
- Provide concrete examples of accepted behaviors and consequences for all workers.
- Use role-play scenarios to demonstrate appropriate social skills in workplace.
- Use training videos to demonstrate appropriate social skills in workplace.
• Working effectively with supervisors:
- Adjust supervisory method by modifying the manner in which conversations take place, meetings are conducted, or discipline is addressed
- Establish long term and short term goals for worker
- Give assignments verbally, in writing, or both, depending on what would be most beneficial to the worker (e.g., use of visual charts)
- Identify areas of improvement for worker in a fair and consistent manner
- Offer positive reinforcement
- Provide clear expectations and the consequences of not meeting expectations
- Provide detailed day-to-day guidance and feedback
• Interacting with co-workers:
- Allow worker to transfer to another workgroup, shift, or department
- Allow worker to work from home when feasible
- Encourage workers to minimize personal conversation, or move personal conversation away from work areas
- Help worker "learn the ropes" by providing a mentor
- Make worker attendance at social functions optional
- Provide sensitivity training to promote disability awareness
9. Employees with Aspergers may experience memory deficits that can affect their ability to complete tasks, remember job duties, or recall daily actions or activities. They also may have difficulty recognizing faces.
- Allow additional training time for new tasks.
- Allow worker to use voice activated recorder to record verbal instructions.
- Encourage worker to ask (or email) with work-related questions.
- Offer training refreshers.
- Prompt worker with verbal cues.
- Provide worker directory with pictures or use nametags and door/cubicle name markers to help worker remember coworkers' faces and names.
- Provide pictorial cues.
- Provide written instructions.
- Safely and securely maintain paper lists of crucial information such as passwords.
- Use a flowchart to describe the steps involved in a complicated task (such as powering up a system, closing down the facility, logging into a computer, etc.).
- Use post-it notes as reminders of important dates or tasks.
10. Employees with Aspergers may experience difficulty performing many tasks at one time. This difficulty could occur regardless of the similarity of tasks, the ease or complexity of the tasks, or the frequency of performing the tasks.
- Create a flow-chart of tasks that must be performed at the same time, carefully labeling or color-coding each task in sequential or preferential order.
- Explain performance standards such as completion time or accuracy rates.
- Identify tasks that must be performed simultaneously and tasks that can be performed individually.
- Provide individualized/specialized training to help worker learn techniques for multi-tasking (e.g., typing on computer while talking on phone).
- Provide specific feedback to help worker target areas of improvement.
- Remove or reduce distractions from work area.
- Separate tasks so that each can completed one at a time.
- Supply proper working equipment to complete multiple tasks at one time, such as workstation and chair, lighting, and office supplies.
Questions to Consider:
- Can the worker with Aspergers provide information on possible accommodation solutions?
- Do supervisory personnel and workers need training regarding Aspergers?
- How do these limitations affect the worker's job performance?
- Once accommodations are in place, would it be useful to meet with the worker to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations and to determine whether additional accommodations are needed?
- What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate problems?
- Are all possible resources being used to determine accommodations?
- What limitations does the worker with Aspergers experience?
- What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?