April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day and April is National Autism Awareness Month. Given that national service programs have members with non-apparent disabilities, including members with all forms of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs), information and tips for including members with autism are provided below:
What are Autism Spectrum Disorders?
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a group of developmental disabilities defined by significant [limitations] in social interaction and communication and the presence of unusual behaviors and interests. The thinking and learning abilities of people with ASDs can vary. ASDs include autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder–not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS, including atypical autism), and Asperger syndrome.
These conditions all have some of the same symptoms, but they differ in terms of when the symptoms start, how severe they are, and the exact nature of the symptoms. ASD occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups and is four times more likely to occur in boys than girls.” Today, 1 in 150 people is diagnosed with autism.
Interviews can be difficult for anyone, but may be especially hard for some people with autism, due to a lack of understanding of social interactions. While an interview may take the form of a conversation, all interviewees must be treated the same and asked the same set of questions.
Remember, you may not ask any disability-related questions or request medical information before offering a position to an applicant. Below are a few techniques that may not only benefit an applicant with a form of autism, but all applicants. In addition to informing an applicant of their right to reasonable accommodations before an interview, you can:
Prepare your applicants: Separate your interview into topic areas and state in clear terms each topic area as you progress through the interview. This will allow the applicant to focus his/her attention on each area of questions and calm nerves. For example, “I have three or four questions about your experience working in an office. Are you ready?”
Use concise language and be specific: For example, you might usually ask an applicant what they are good at. Instead, be more specific. “Are you good at keeping track of numbers?” or “Can you work in an office where many people come in and out at once?” Direct questions allow an applicant to speak specifically to the skills that your service program is looking for.
Interview wrap-up: Tell an applicant, “I have two last questions and then we’ll wrap up in about five minutes.” This allows applicants to prepare themselves for the end of the interview and include anything else they would like to say. It is also advisable to share the date by which they will hear from you.
How does your program work to maintain an inclusive interviewing standard?
Further resources about ASDs & inclusive interviewing/reasonable accommodations are available:
- Interviewing potential applicants using an inclusive process
- JAN: Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees with Asperger Syndrome
- Autism at Work
We always look forward to serving you! Please feel free to contact us with any disability inclusion questions and requests for information at NSIP [at] umb.edu or 888-491-0326 (V/TTY). Visit our site for a list of trainings offered by NSIP.