This week is World Autism Awareness Week 2019 (1-7 April), a great opportunity to think about how we can support friends, colleagues and family members with the condition.

The National Autistic Society provides a great intro to autism in a short film narrated by autistic garden designer and TV presenter Alan Gardner, plus an excellent downloadable poster featuring Chris Packham CBE, outlining how to support people with autism in the workplace.

Here at Organic Blooms it has become second nature to work effectively with colleagues with autism including Asperger’s syndrome. Together, we tackle workplace challenges experienced by trainees with autism and those around them, for example:
• encouraging someone who struggles with changes to their routine to undertake varied tasks or work with different colleagues;
• helping someone to understand why a comment they made was interpreted as critical or unkind
• finding ways for someone who finds it uncomfortable sharing a space with others to work more comfortably in proximity to their team mates.

Our founding director Jo Wright explains, “Our role is to gently teach, develop, encourage and make adjustments where helpful or necessary. Simple changes can be incredibly effective and benefit the employee with autism by making their role more achievable and sustainable. Their employer benefits by gaining a reliable, effective, committed employee. Colleagues can benefit from the many positives a team mate with autism can bring.”

A very simple adjustment might be to ensure information and instructions are given using clear, precise, plain English. Social colloquialisms that are potentially confusing for someone with autism (“How are you doing?” “How am I doing what?”) remain fine to use with friendly colleagues on hand to explain the meaning; becoming familiar with such niceties can make social connections easier.

Jo adds, “One of our joys at Organic Blooms is seeing people with autism develop, learn and become valued colleagues. We’re busier than ever and have just started supplying boxes of stems and plug plant boxes to Abel & Cole, enabling us to create some new part time paid roles. We have invited trainees to apply and some of the interviews have already taken place – watch this space!”