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Autism spectrum disorder

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a lifelong developmental disability that affects around 700,000 people in the UK – that’s more than one in every 100 people.

It includes autism, Asperger’s syndrome and pervasive development disorder, and it affects how a person communicates with, and relates to others. All people with ASD share some challenges – such as understanding and processing language – but characteristics of ASD will vary from one person to another.

How does ASD affect people?

ASD is often a hidden disability and many people with it might appear able, but struggle with things such as:

  • Changes to routine
  • Understanding jokes
  • Getting about on their own
  • Poor organisational skills
  • Poor motor skills.

They may also experience over or under-sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colour. People with ASD are often very reliable and honest and have a very good attention to detail.

Recruiting people with ASD

If an individual declares that they have ASD there are ways you can support them in the recruitment process:

  • Make sure that the recruitment process is clear and the candidate knows where and when they need to come for the interview
  • Consider a ‘working interview’ so that you can see how they perform in the workplace
  • Be clear and use plain English. People with ASD will probably not understand ambiguous phrases
  • Allow time to draw out hidden skills and abilities.

Supporting staff who have ASD

People with ASD make great employees.

You can help them to stay with you by:

  • Being clear about what is expected from them
  • Watching out for bullying. Think about getting someone to be their workplace mentor
  • Considering changes to the role to play to their strengths
  • If changes need to be made make sure that they understand what the changes will mean to them
  • Put in place training and job coaching to make sure that they understand requirements and continue to develop.

Useful information about ASD

You might need to make some adjustments to help your employees. These could include specialist equipment like chairs and IT equipment. Grants are available through Access to Work to help to cover the cost of items that are identified as necessary to support employees who are disabled or have a health condition.

Take a look at our case studies to see how we have transformed the lives of disabled people.

National Autistic Society

NAS are the leading UK charity for people with autism (including Asperger syndrome) and their families. They provide information, support and pioneering services, and campaign for a better world for people with autism.

Back to A-Z of disabilities