So you work with an Autist?

Aspergers quoteAutist, Aspie or just another uniquely talented colleague who takes everyone at their word and probably loves the jobs you hate – lucky you.



No two people with Asperger’s are the same.

They share the same level of intellect, talent, skills and desire to work as the rest of the population and yet unemployment rates for people on the autistic spectrum range from 75% to 97%, even when the economy is healthy.

With thanks to

It’s a commutation thing.

People with Aspergers often have quirks that require a degree of social adjustment from the rest of us, which can turn interviews into a special kind of minefield. But employers ignore this section of the population at their peril because about 700,000 people in the UK are on the spectrum and that’s a lot of potential to miss.

Why? Because characteristics of the condition often include professional attributes that few others can match. Perfectionism, the ability to absorb every tiny detail of a process and a willingness to test outcomes to the Nth degree are all on this list.

Here are just a few typical Asperger’s characteristic and some hints on how to embrace their potential.

Body language

They may find it difficult to understand non-verbal communication

Body language or tone of voice is often lost on those with Asperger’s.

Which means they won’t always pick up on what you didn’t say.

Which also means you’re less likely to accidentally hurt their feelings.

Try not to take their apparent ambivalence personally. If you’re having a bad day, or a good day and your facial expression isn’t getting the required response, just say so.

Say, I’m having a good day today, let me tell you why.

Say I’m proper grumpy today so I won’t be speaking to you till home time. Just do it, it’s fine.

whats your excuse?

Interpreting the thoughts and motives of others isn’t really their thing

Office politics, cattiness and unspoken motives are lost on the average Autist. They work at a refreshingly straightforward and much more transparent level than most. Share your feelings if you want some recognition, conceal them if it feels better but don’t expect your Asperger’s affected colleague to read your mood without help.

Autist colleagues wont always get the joke

Non-literal uses of language, such as jokes or irony won’t resonate

They might not get the joke and they almost certainly won’t pick up on irony. All of which might take a bit of getting used to. Be fair though, you probably don’t get every sense of humour you encounter either.

Don’t take it personally. The process of learning to say exactly what you mean can be a revelation.

You might even learn something about your own communication style in the process.

Respecting social conventions might not be instinctive

This can feel awkward – but the same rules of explicit instruction apply. Your colleague won’t be offended if you ask them to stand a little further from your desk, speak a little more quietly indoors, or stop talking to themselves. In fact they’ll most likely appreciate your clarity and willingness to help them fit in with the crowd.

Daily Routine

Getting anxious if their routine changes

Dependency on routine is what makes many Autists tick, it’s what allows them to excel at certain tasks and it’s part of their overall uniqueness. Embrace the quirk, don’t force sudden changes unless you absolutely can’t avoid it, give them plenty of warning and allow for a period of adjustment.


Embrace autist

Experiencing occasional sensory meltdowns

Imagine being asked to write a detailed report in the middle of a packed dance floor.

Some autistic people are incredibly sensitive to stimulation that most of us don’t even notice. The tick of a clock, the rumble of the coffee maker, a tiny flicker in the overhead light. These people have a lot to contend with, so expect occasional meltdowns and look for ways to offer a little bit of calm when they come along.



Crashing and banging

Yip, people can be clumsy, get used to it.

Don’t expect more than a person can offer and be kind, this isn’t carelessness we’re talking about.

Asperger’s is often accompanied by Dyspraxia – yet another life challenge for your colleague – vive la difference.


For more information about working with Asperger’s, Autism and other conditions go to

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply