Strategies, Working with me, Autism

My guide to working with me (an autistic adult)

What do you need to know when working with me? As an autistic, I might not always react in expected ways and sometimes I might seem difficult. If you ever have the pleasure of working with me, here are a few things to bear in mind.

  1. Get to know the real me. Beneath the sometimes rough exterior is a diamond with a heart of gold. I am passionate about everything I do, doing the right thing is very important to me and I am loyal to those I connect with. Take the time to get to know the real me, you may be surprised.

  2. Ask me. I have probably spent more time than most thinking about how best to work with me. In fact I have spent more time trying to study and decode myself, than I spent getting my two degrees. I am pretty much a master of me - got a question about me ... ask. I will answer, and am happy to talk about alternative ways of working if something is not working for you. Just ask.

  3. Pick your moments. My brain craves information, working through challenges, and solving puzzles. A bit like a hungry hippo devouring everything in site. In a new situation I will become hyper-focused on trying to make sense of it, and work things out. My brain goes into overdrive, and when talking I am likely to be all over the place as my brain jumps from thought to though. Now is not the time to try chat to me about other things, as I may not take well to distractions. That said, you may need to pull me out of a rabbit hole if you can see I am becoming obsessed to the exclusion of all else (i.e. not eat, sleep, function). In that scenario, forcing me to get away may be the only option. As things start to come together in my mind, I will slow down and the insights I gave gained will develop into well thought out ideas.

  4. Avoid surprises. I have many checklists and approaches to activities, honed over the years. These have been developed based on my previous experiences, and help me get started as quickly as possible and create a mental map of how everything fits together. I am not good at last minute reveals, as it interrupts my pre-planned thinking. If you spring a new approach on me, you better be ready for the reaction. It may not go well. Send it to me ahead of time, so I can think it through.Your chances of getting me bought into something new will be greatly increased.

  5. Support me when needed. I dislike uncertainty and unclear expectations. In these situations, I am driven to try to bring clarity and certainty. My need to control will take over as I try to sort it out. In extreme situations, I will become overwhelmed by anxiety and obsessive thoughts about how to change things. This is not a great place to be. So work with me to increase certainty, and appreciate that in these moments I am likely to need your support.

  6. Embrace knowledge sharing. Lack of collaboration and information sharing really annoy me. As does new people joining the team, and not bothering to find out what people have previously considered. This is inefficient and will lead to more work for us all. Let's put time aside to share what we know, ask questions, and explore connections. This could make life so much easier for us all.

  7. Book social time. Sociability at work is not high on my priority list, and I often forget about the social stuff when at work. This is because I am so focused on ... well ... my job. I am happy to make time for a social hello, but you will have better success in connecting with me if you invite me to coffee or for a post work drink. The non work rules are different, and I find it easier to be social then .... just please don't ask me to make small talk.

  8. Don't push me when I am stuck. I will fight and defend my position when challenged, and I will likely continue the fight long after it is necessary. I get caught up in conversations, and find it difficult to get out of it. My brain needs time to process and become unstuck. In these moments, allow me the space to escape, calm down and collect my thoughts. It could all be different with a little bit of time.

  9. Provide space when I am under pressure. When up against pressure, I will push to try and make a deadline. Everything will be focused on getting things done and I will push - myself and those around me. I may be snappy and curt, this is not personal. Help me get the job done and we can celebrate and be sociable when we are done. First round and cupcakes will be on me.

  10. Be direct and honest. Politics, spin and subtlety just get a big no, no, no. I need you to be genuine - without this I can't make sense of you and am unable to work out if I can trust you or not. Just be honest, even if it is about you finding me difficult, I will respect that.

I really do just want people to take a bit of time to think about how best to work with me, as I am a completely different person when you take the time to get to know me and give me the space that I need. There is no need for me to be difficult, this is not the person I want to be, however I will need your help to achieve this.

Get it right and we can have a great time working together. We will laugh, we will get things done and I WILL ALWAYS HAVE YOUR BACK.

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About Helen Needham

Helen is the originator and founder of Me.Decoded. A passionate advocate for Neurodiversity, - diagnosed as autistic in her 40's after a lifetime of feeling like she was on the outside looking in.
  • England