WORLD AUTISM ACCEPTANCE MONTH: How studios can empower neurodiverse employees

World Autism Acceptance Month once again takes place throughout April, with a theme of ‘Celebrate Difference’. In addition, April 2nd marks the United Nations’ Autism Awareness Day.

According to the most recent Ukie Census, some four per cent of the UK games industry is autistic – a greater proportion than in the wider UK population, where it is estimated at one to two per cent. 

While challenges exist, autistic individuals bring a unique set of strengths and perspectives to the workplace. And by fostering a supportive environment, studios can tap into this valuable neurodiversity, creating a more inclusive and successful team.

neurodiverse offices

Hiring and Interviewing: Creating a Welcoming Process

The recruitment process can be stressful for anyone, but for autistic individuals, navigating social cues and unfamiliar environments can be particularly overwhelming. Here’s how companies can create a more welcoming experience:

  • Offer alternative interview formats. Consider written questionnaires, video conferencing, or phone interviews alongside traditional face-to-face meetings.
  • Provide clear information. Share interview details in advance, including questions/topics, dress code, and who they are going to meet via the interview panel.
  • Create a sensory-friendly interview space. Opt for a quiet room with minimal distractions like flickering lights or loud noises.
  • Focus on skills and strengths. Tailor questions to assess job-specific abilities and allow candidates to showcase their strengths through practical tasks or presentations.
  • Train interviewers on understanding autism. Educate hiring managers on recognising communication styles and potential areas of difficulty for autistic candidates.

Building a Supportive Work Environment: Advancing Success for Autistic Employees

Creating a supportive work environment goes beyond basic accommodations. It’s about fostering a culture of understanding and empowering autistic employees to thrive. Here are some additional strategies to consider:

  • Open Dialogue and Self-Disclosure: Encourage open communication about individual needs, preferences and reasonable adjustments. Respect an employee’s decision whether they choose to officially disclose their autism diagnosis if they’ve mentioned they are thinking or going through the process. Never pressure employees to do so because due to various issues like cost and wait times a diagnosis is considered a privilege for many, while others may have not considered they could be autistic.
  • Training: Offer autism awareness training for colleagues to create a more understanding environment.
  • Flexible work arrangements: Consider flexible work schedules, remote options, or compressed workweeks to accommodate sensory sensitivities or challenges with social interaction.
  • Social Skills Support: Offer workshops or training programmes on navigating office social dynamics and communication styles. This can benefit all employees, not just autistic individuals.
  • Teamwork and Collaboration: Assign autistic employees to teams with understanding colleagues who can provide support and social interaction on their terms. Pair them with mentors who can help navigate social situations and unwritten workplace rules.
  • Performance Management: Provide clear and specific feedback, focusing on strengths and areas for improvement. Offer more regular check-ins or more spaced out yet longer performance reviews to ensure goals and expectations are clear.
  • Mentorship and Career Development: Invest in mentorship programmes that pair autistic employees with experienced colleagues who can offer guidance and support career development. Identify opportunities for skill development and advancement based on their strengths and interests.
  • Assistive Technologies: Explore the use of assistive technologies like noise-cancelling headphones, specialised software for visual organisation, or text-to-speech programs to help with communication and information processing.
  • Sensory Considerations: Go beyond offering quiet spaces. Consider adjustable lighting options, ergonomic furniture, and designated areas for breaks that cater to different sensory needs.
  • Social Events and Activities: Organise optional social events that take into account sensory sensitivities. Offer a variety of options, from virtual gatherings to low-key outings, to promote team building and social interaction on autistic employees’ terms.

Building a Culture of Inclusion:

Ultimately, creating a supportive work environment involves encouraging a culture of inclusion. This means celebrating all forms of neurodiversity and valuing the unique strengths that autistic employees bring. By implementing these strategies and fostering open communication, studios can create a workplace where all employees feel empowered to contribute their best.

Remember: Every autistic individual is different. The key is to personalise support and accommodations based on individual needs and preferences. Regular communication and open dialogue with autistic employees will help ensure a work environment that fosters their success and maximises their potential.

Neurodiversity in the Workplace: A Valuable Asset

Here’s how embracing neurodiversity can benefit companies:

  • Enhanced creativity and problem-solving. Autistic individuals often excel at thinking outside the box and bringing unique perspectives to brainstorming sessions.
  • Improved accuracy and attention to detail. Focus and meticulousness can be an asset in tasks requiring precision and data analysis.
  • Strong work ethic and loyalty. Many autistic employees value structure and routine, leading to dedication and commitment to their roles.
  • Diversity of thought fosters innovation. A team with diverse perspectives can create a more dynamic and adaptable work environment.

Additional Resources:

The Autism Society

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