Friday 15 July 2011

Operation Asperger

Welcome back to Adventures with Autism Works. After a period of island hopping and talks, seminars and workshops from places as diverse as Guernsey to Stockton-on-Tees, my main focus this week is developing the Operations Manual for Autism Works. The purpose of the Operations Manual is to develop a set of working practices that are more Autism-friendly. Despite being on the autistic spectrum, it is a complex task.

As you may recall, much of my previous blog entries as well as what I talk about in my employment workshops, including the one I gave for Credit Suisse in Guernesy, have focused on how it is the recruitment process that many people with Asperger's Syndrome find difficult, often before they have had any opportunity to show that they are capable of performing a particular job as well as, and in many cases, better than others. However, when going through employment policies which I am adapting to Autism Works, it is also apparent that ASC is equally affected elsewhere within working practices.

Though there will be certain aspects of employment policies and employment law that will be consistent with conventional working practices, including annual leave entitlement, health and safety etc. there are some aspects that will need necessary adaptations to accommodate the needs of employees with ASC. As part of creating a 'more inclusive' workforce, what I guess we have to be careful of is that we don't, where we can avoid it, have separate procedures for employees with ASC and for people not on the autistic spectrum. 

Sections that I am currently working on include developing the appraisal and dignity at work policies. Aspects of these policies clearly need to be altered to include the needs of people with ASC. Despite being on the autistic spectrum, what makes such a task difficult in relation to how I am affected by Asperger's Syndrome is that there is no right or wrong way to do it. As ASC is so individual, one method or resolution that works for one person with ASC may not work for another.

Another aspect of the Operations Manual that may present problems is looking at where it is possible for employment law, including equal opportunities policies, can sometimes collide. From previous employment, I felt that I seen this where employers, as part of their equal opportunities policies have a one-size-fits-all approach to recruitment methods, offering the same recruitment tools, including job interview questions, to all candidates. In the case of Asperger's Syndrome though, this can be seen as discriminatory in the sense that a candidate with Asperger's Syndrome may often have different needs around this. Where this could apply within the workplace is when an employee is unintentionally offended by the traits or characteristics of an individual with ASC such as abscence of or prolonged eye-contact, but in the defence of the employee with ASC, this could be perceived as discrimination towards the way they are.

Like with the recruitment process, there isn't an appropriate good practice template in existence that we have been able to access and replicate. As Autism Works is still developing as a company, we are aware that there are key milestones we are yet to achieve and as part of  attaining these milestones, chances are mistakes will be made and difficulties will be experienced. Just being aware of this though is a huge relief, as much as an Asperger's Syndrome diagnosis itself can be.

Be sure to stay tuned to Adventures with Autism Works to see how this stage of the company's development unfolds.

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