Neurodivergent Rebel here, and today I wanted to talk about the first step in creating an autistic friendly workplace. So, the first step – the very first step – that you can do if you are an organization wanting to create a culture that is autism friendly within your workplace is education. Simple education.
Bring in an autistic person to do your education and to educate about autism and autistic people in your workplace. You need someone to come in and help people who don’t have experience with autism understand autistic people and to help break down some of the confusion, misunderstandings, and stigma.
There are little things autistic people do that are often misunderstood. Say your autistic person in your workplace is sitting alone at lunch and is not sitting with their colleagues; their colleagues might interpret that as “oh, this person just doesn’t like us, and they don’t ever want to hang out with us at lunch.”
But in reality, when I do that, it’s because I need my lunch break to actually be a break so I can recover and re-center myself, and I have to do that alone. I can’t do that with other people around, and so I go on my own if I’ve been with people all day. The first chance I get to be alone, I’m gone … I’m outta there. So, there are those kinds of misunderstandings.
Autistic people regulate their environment and their emotions by stimming, and so an autistic person might be sitting in their chair rocking, they might be humming, or chewing on something while they are typing. While they are working, they are just chewing, chewing, chewing, chewing. Or they are holding a little stuffed animal, or they’ve got things that other adults would look at and say “This is really childish. This is not professional. Why is this in the workplace?” – because there is that stigma that these things are childish, but these items for an autistic person help to regulate.
And so, not being ashamed of having things around you, and being able to do things that make your life more comfortable is really important, but it doesn’t make sense if you don’t have someone to come in and explain autism and the autistic experience and autistic culture.
So, that’s my recommendation. If you really want to start to create a workplace that is autism friendly, start with education. All right, thank you so much. I will talk to you next week. Bye!