The Untapped Talent

The Untapped Talent

I’m a member of Toastmasters International (Doncaster Speaker’s Club)  and I presented a speech recently about Asperger’s Syndrome – something that touches my life personally.  I wanted to share with the group some of the experiences of bringing up a child with Asperger’s and seeing that child blossom and achieve wonderful things.

For those of you who are perhaps not overly familiar with Asperger’s Syndrome; the condition is on the autistic spectrum and is said to be recognisable by a ‘Triad of Impairments’ relating to social communication, social interaction and social imagination.  There’s more information about this on the National Autistic Society website.

At the end of my presentation, members of the group came over to thank me for providing an insight into this often hidden condition and for challenging them not to make assumptions about individuals.

In turn this has prompted me to promote the value that someone with Asperger’s can bring to the workplace and to share my thoughts with you.

Those with Asperger’s see the world from a different perspective and in doing so they bring strengths and qualities to the workplace just as any other employee would do and in the right kind of role and environment, they can thrive and excel.  The right kind of role is often one requiring attention to detail such as accountancy and architecture or where there are clear parameters.  They are sometimes driven by their interest in a particular field, which in turn leads them to develop a high level of knowledge and skill in that area; technical work such as IT being a particular example.  As well as being precise and having attention to detail, they generally have a fantastic memory and a high standard of vocabulary.

At the same time as excelling in particular skills and knowledge those with Asperger’s Syndrome have personal qualities that are highly valued in the workplace.  They are very open and honest, although this needs to be balanced with a tendency to be very direct – they will tell it as it is.  They will follow instructions and abide by rules, making them impeccable at time keeping.

It’s clear to see that with the right kind of support and environment, someone with Asperger’s has loads to offer, but what constitutes the right amount and kind of support?  One thing to remember is that the condition affects each individual differently and so talk to them about what they need in terms of support and adjustments

Very often it is things that will help to keep anxiety at a minimum:

• Helping them to plan and making sure they know what is going to happen; mobile phone reminders and task lists for example.
• Providing clear instructions and directions, broken down and presented with bullet points so that they are not faced with a wall of text.

It’s also important to think about their training needs just as you would any other employee.  It may help them to be trained in communication skills such as body language, communicating in different contexts like meetings and using interpersonal skills within written communication.  Things that others take for granted in the workplace have to be learned cognitively by people with Asperger’s.

Don’t forget to keep communicating with them; checking out that they are coping and not experiencing high levels of stress.

Lastly don’t forget the need for others in the workplace to understand Asperger’s – lack of understanding by others is the biggest barrier so make sure those around them are trained and are given an understanding of Asperger’s Syndrome.

Remember that people with Asperger’s Syndrome can teach us so much, not least of which is about things we take for granted and assumptions we make.

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