Work place environments can be difficult to navigate, especially for autistic people. At ease while focused on their own work, many autistic individuals are uncomfortable when people “drop in” on them out of the blue; negotiating office politics can be overwhelming and incomprehensible; the speed at which they process spoken language can differ from that of neurotypical employees so that fast-paced meetings and discussions are too complicated for them to follow with clarity and focus. And that’s on a good day.
What, then, is the answer to the conundrum of how to actively engage autistic individuals in the workforce so that they can have meaningful, sustainable careers? How do we include without demeaning and pandering within the current standard of employment?
The answer, quite simply, is that we do not. The current system was devised by and for neurotypical people. And when we expect autistic people to fold in on themselves, to mask their wholeness, in order to meet the constraints of neurotypical expectations, we do them a grave injustice. We as good as tie their hands and then ask them to embroider a tapestry, then criticize them for it being haphazard and incomplete. It will never lead to success.
If we want to show autistic people respect and treat them with dignity, we must, as a society, re-evaluate the accepted expectations in the workplace and consider what changes need to be made to include everyone – neurotypical and neurodiverse alike. To do otherwise is to say the mental well-being of those outwith the standard mold doesn’t matter.