This week (26th March – 2nd April 2018) is Autism Awareness Week, and we wanted to take a moment to talk about our work with young people who may have learning difficulties or disabilities, such as Autism. Autism is a developmental disability which includes difficulty with social aspects of life and can prove to be a barrier to accessing employment.
At Choc affair we’ve been working with Blueberry Academy for over two years, a local organisation providing specialist support to adults with learning disabilities; the main aim of which is to promote employability and independence and we have several of Blueberry’s students working within Choc Affair.
On the days that we have the students in, the change in atmosphere is tangible. An unspoken sense of nurturing takes hold of us and we all have a better, brighter day. The guys on our team are softer, the ladies have an extra sparkle to their smiles and the office team keep popping downstairs to chat, there’s an indiscernible difference to our team spirit with that extra bit of added magic.
As part of World Autism Awareness Week we wanted to celebrate diversity in the workplace, and discuss how employers can create an Autism friendly environment for employees. And so we have come up with 5 simple tips on how to make sure that your workplace is Autism friendly.
One easy way to support autistic individuals is to provide a clear structure of the day, and incorporate a routine that is straightforward to follow. This could involve using timetables that split up the day, including any breaks that may take place.
2. Consider Support Staff
From our experience, we know the student will attend with a job coach. We find it incredibly important to include the job coach in any tasks that may be going on, otherwise it can be quite boring to sit and watch someone work for several hours and it also provides a reference for individuals to see how to do a task.
It is immensely important to ensure that task instructions are clear, concise and specific. Autistic individuals often require things to be in ‘black and white’, meaning that tasks should be unmistakable and clear.
Sensory distractions can make the environment quite uncomfortable for autistic individuals, so look at ways you can reduce noise and excessive activity. For example, some may prefer to work in a quieter area, so providing quiet areas or workstations with less people may be more ideal.
What may seem to be a small issue to one person, can actually cause a lot of stress for someone with autism; so it is essential to be able to provide reassurance, support and solutions to any issues that may cause such distress. For example; having someone who the individual can go to if they are feeling stressed, or an area that they can take themselves to calm down.
There are so many things that can be easily done to create an autism friendly environment that doesn’t cost anything – so why not start putting some of these top tips in place? It really does have a great impact on so many employees, and can really make a difference to the working environment. We also urge businesses to get in touch with places in their area who support the independence of individuals with learning difficulties and start making a difference today!
The Choc Affair Team x