By TK Torme
(originally published in the Pacific Autism Family Network’s Voices of Autism newsletter)
The workplace can be a minefield for all individuals especially for those who are on the autism spectrum. Words, small talk, social networking, social chit chat – it’s all confusing. Not understanding the subtle cues behind the words and faces of people make it even more of a challenge.
When we communicate, we can say hurtful and mean words to others. We are misunderstood. Many people on the autism spectrum suffer from anxiety. We also have major sensory issues preventing us from fully interacting with others. It’s as if every single radio station were being blasted onto one channel at the same time. We want to be included in work functions and activities. We also want the same work relationships that others have: the easy networking, the small talk others have about their families and weekends. We want to be asked about our lives too.
If you have an autistic individual in your workplace, please go out of your way to include them in everything, including small talk. Say hello to them. Invite them to sit with them at lunch. Share your lunch with them. Ask them about their interests and hobbies. Play match maker if you know of somebody outside of the workplace. Help them make new friends. Introduce them to other coworkers in the building. Invite them to an outside work lunch or dinner. Help them out at work when they are having issues with their work duties. We are awesome people and are worth getting to know better.