Friday 29 July 2011

Plain English and Attention to Detail

Welcome back to Adventures with Autism Works. This week has seen our two Test Engineers, Dan and Chris, continue to make progress in their training towards sitting their ISEB exams while I have continued to work on the Autism Works Operational Manual, which is quite an exhaustive and fascinating task. There are parts of it that some would perhaps find to be not much more than 'monotonous company speak', but the big challenge for me though is to make it more ASC-friendly.

Part of making the company's operational procedures more autism-friendly involves, where possible, doing away with jargon or company speak and converting it to Plain English. An aspect of being diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome that I often talk about when giving training for frontline services, such as the police, the legal profession and others, is how people with the condition can often be talked into 'false compliance' with statements that may not be true or into buying a product that they don't want, through 'hidden agendas' being thinly disguised by jargon. A classic example that I like to use is the Nationwide Building Society adverts featuring Mark Benton (also known for his role as maths teacher Mr Chalk), who in the roles as a manager at a rival bank tricks the customers with financial jargon, whereas Nationwide uses 'Plain English' with its customers. As it is possible that people with ASC may find themselves breaking rules unaware, not least because I have fallen into this trap in previous employment, as well as Plain English, another important aspect of developing the company's operational policies involves differentiating between intentional and unintentional, especially if a particular action related to ASC happens to offend a colleague. 

Much of what I have been doing has involved adapting standard employment policies so that they 'make sense', but one that I have had to put together from scratch is the company's Social Media Policy. As this blog has previously explored, effective use of social media plays a key part in the development of a company like Autism Works, in both generating publicity as well as playing a part in forming opinions about the company's mission. Many people with ASC appear to find online communication through E-mail or social networks a more comfortable medium of communication, but what is not always apparent to most of us, both people with ASC and people not on the autistic spectrum, is the consequences that certain posts in social networks can have, especially if they harm a client's reputation or are, at worst, libellous.

At a team meeting we have had this morning where we have talked about maximising use of social networks for different purposes, we have agreed that our top priority when communicating via social networks is what we like to sell Autism Works - attention to detail. In this case making sure that posts are checked for accuracy, including spelling mistakes.

Elsewhere Peter is on holiday for two weeks from this afternoon, but hopefully when he gets back I will have much if maybe not all of the Operational Manual drafted, so that we can take steps towards getting it approved by the Autism Works Board. In the meantime, continue to watch this space for further developments in the world of Autism Works.

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