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How to Accommodate Employees with Asperger's Syndrome

written by: Stephanie Torreno • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 8/29/2010

People with Asperger’s syndrome have difficulties with communication skills, social skills, and time management, among other limitations. Still, these individuals can make valuable employees with the proper supports. Read the following article about accommodating employees with Asperger's syndrome.

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    A Brief Overview of Asperger’s Syndrome

    Asperger’s syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that affects how individuals relate to others. People with Asperger’s generally have average or above-average intelligence and function better than people with more severe forms of autism. While difficulties vary in each individual, someone with this ASD usually lacks abilities in communicating, socializing, organizing, prioritizing, and managing time. With the proper accommodations and supports, however, individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome can make excellent and valued employees.

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    Accommodating Employees with Asperger's Syndrome

    Employers who hire someone with Asperger’s should have knowledge of an individual’s limitations. One person with the disorder may need workplace accommodations, but another may not need any, or may need just a few. Depending on the types and severity of limitations, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to provide accommodations.

    The most crucial part of accommodating employees with Asperger’s Syndrome is to clearly explain all expectations and outcomes of the job. Since individuals with this disorder perceive tasks differently and think more concretely, they need to be shown how to accomplish a job step by step. When training an employee with Asperger’s, supervisors should break down tasks into smaller parts. Including all parts of a task, teaching the job systematically, and allowing extra training time will prevent both employer and employee frustrations in the future.

    Due to communication difficulties experienced by those with Asperger’s, employers should write down information and allow the employee to respond in writing instead of relying on verbal communication. Advanced notice of meetings and the topics needed to be discussed, particularly when the employee must speak, should be given to reduce anxiety. If needed, a job coach or coworker should accompany an employee with Asperger’s Syndrome to a meeting to reduce intimidation and to facilitate communication.

    People with Asperger’s often do want to socialize, but have difficulties exhibiting appropriate social skills. Since inappropriate behavior can impair job performance and disrupt others on the job, supervisors need to clearly explain the conduct policy. An employee should understand the real consequences of inappropriate behavior. To demonstrate appropriate workplace behavior, videos, real-life scenarios and job coach assistance should be used. Employers should provide disability awareness training to other employees and encourage social support among coworkers.

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    Further Help and Assistance

    To help an employee manage their time while on the job, employers can provide a checklist of duties and written due dates of assignments on calendars. Handheld and electronic organizers also assist an employee with Asperger’s in completing a task. For specific tasks or duties that an employee is hesitant beginning or finishing, setting an alarm or timer can aid in job completion.

    Color-coded files can assist an employee with Asperger’s Syndrome in organizing and prioritizing. A weekly chart can identify the assignments that need to be completed, too. Employees who need them should use a job coach to teach or reinforce organizational skills. An assigned mentor should help employees with the disorder, and a supervisor should prioritize tasks.

    In accommodating employees with Asperger’s Syndrome, these adaptations are just a few of the supports available in the workplace. Employers and employees should work with job coaches and other disability professionals to identify and implement individual job accommodations.

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    References

    1) Working with people who have high functioning autism and asperger’s syndrome. (n.d) Tools & Strategies for Managers and Supervisors. Retrieved August 26, 2010, from www.ausm.org/supportServices/managers_guide_book.pdf

    2) Kitchen, S.G. (2008). Accommodation and compliance series: employees with asperger syndrome. Job Accommodation Network. Retrieved August 26, 2010, from askjan.org/media/asperger.html