As a line manager, you may have employees who are on the autism spectrum. You may be wondering how best to support them through this period of change – maybe you’re worried that this period of uncertainty will cause them distress, or that you could say something wrong? 

The purpose of this page is to provide you with some ideas and confidence around how best to support these colleagues through the transition. 

Understanding Autism

Autism is highly individual condition. Some people on the Autism spectrum are very structured – this means that they dislike and don’t understand change. While people without Autism might know and worry about the bigger picture; people with autism will worry about big picture but the initial part of their worry will be very focused on detail, such as moving to a different desk, chair, floor or new building. This worry may consume them and not give them time to reflect and digest on the bigger changes that are happening. That’s when they need to start making decisions – and that’s what they need to focus on.  By following the below tips to support people with autism, you will reduce their stress so that they are in the best state of mind to make decisions.  

As manager – you know your staff. So you may have a clear idea already about managing people with autism. To effectively support your team member through transition, there are some extra things to bear in mind.  

 

Top Tips:

Set aside time

You’re a busy manager – but it’s important that you put time aside to identify the needs of each individual and the level of support that each individual requires, then spend time with that team member. One individual might need 15 minutes quiet time once a week, another might need dedicated timeslots daily. What’s important is that they have one-to-one time with you to talk. 

Find a quiet space

Find a quiet space and time to discuss their worries either with you as their line manager or an appointed person (could be their colleague). It is useful if this meeting takes place at an allocated time that they know will be set aside for them. 

Knowing what to say…

You may panic because you don’t know how to support someone on the spectrum, or perhaps you’re afraid of saying, or not saying something! Your role is to be there as a worry buddy. You don’t need to provide information about legal, HR or transformation decisions. Let them know that you are listening to them, that you have noted their worries – and will forward them on. Just be there as the agony aunt, the listening ear. You will take their worries on board and do the best to support them in the change. 

Look for non-verbal signs

Someone with Autism may initially be unwilling or unable to discuss their concerns. So don’t just listen to their words – watch for their the body language. Does anything tell you that something’s wrong? Words might not tell you – body language will. 

Changes to environment

Someone with Autism might become fixated and stressed about upcoming changes to their workplace, for example moving job, moving chair, different colleagues. Your role is to work within what’s possible to try and make everything as peaceful and stress free as possible. Give your team member some choice – then make sure everything is in place.  

  • When it comes to the chair move, “Let’s go and see that chair. Maybe you can keep your own chair?” 
  • New manager or colleagues? Invite them up to meet potential new line manager. Maybe the existing and new line managers can come together to discuss. 

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