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University of Bath

Careers Service tips on providing autism friendly advice

Information from the Careers Service on how staff can adapt to provide autism-friendly advice, particularly when giving feedback on applications and CVs.

Introduction

This advice was written by a Careers Service Applications Adviser. It gives suggestions for how to adapt communications in 1:1 appointments to make them autism friendly. There is a particular focus on appointments where CV or application feedback and advice is being given.

Examples of student presentation

Autism is a complex spectrum condition. Autistic people share certain difficulties but are affected in different ways. In an appointment, you might notice one or more of the following characteristics: - Poor short -term memory. - Repetitive behaviours, i.e. stimming such as hand flapping and other motions. - Comorbidities such as mental health challenges, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, and possible physical challenges such as needing the toilet frequently etc. - May be prone to sensory overload (e.g. difficulties filtering out background noise) or under-sensitive to any of the seven senses. - May not make eye contact. - Loss of concentration, i.e. focussing on other stimuli such as noise. - Obsessive with timings, i.e. eager to finish the appointment at the exact agreed time.

Communication adjustments for a good appointment

If the student has not already requested reasonable adjustments for the appointment, the following might be helpful:

  • Check if they are okay with their surroundings and make the appropriate adjustments. E.g. close the door, turn air conditioning off, alter the lighting.
  • Be clear and direct when asking questions, i.e. ‘who are you writing this CV for?’. Avoid ambiguous questions such as ‘how do you feel about…’
  • Be specific and directional with instructions, i.e. ‘When you get home, go on your laptop and find the job specification. Look at the eligibility criteria....’
  • Be prescriptive, i.e. offer more detail than you would usually give
  • Accept that they might not make eye contact and proceed as if they are listening unless they show other signs that they have lost concentration.
  • Speak in a calm, slow manner with pauses between phrases.

Key challenges in appointments and how to address them

Anxiety:

  • Check for sensory overload and make appropriate adjustments. If the student’s anxiety is not improving, see below.

Student breakdown:

  • Check that the environment is not contributing (i.e. too loud?) and, if so, offer to go to a quiet place.
  • Offer to pop out of the room and leave them for a few minutes.
  • Ask them what they can manage today.
  • Consider rearranging the appointment if appropriate.

Student loses concentration:

  • Use their name.
  • Ask them what they think about the topic you were discussing.
  • Offer to change the environment.
  • Offer to move onto a different question/topic.
  • Assess when might be an appropriate time to end the appointment and reschedule.

Trouble meeting recruitment deadlines:

  • Break the deadlines into smaller tasks.
  • Create a spreadsheet with a record of deadlines, what was agreed, and the actions to take.
  • Email this to student.

Filling their CV:

  • Use probing questions: What extracurricular activities are you involved in at University? What are your hobbies? What do you do in your spare time? Request that they describe them to you.
  • Try to find a passion or a deep focused interest.
  • If any of their activities or interests involves working with people, you could tell them to describe how they work in a team.
  • Discuss disclosure if appropriate, i.e. related to gaps on cv, disclosing in a cover letter. Have they thought about it and do they need additional advice?

Application question support:

  • Help them interpret the language. Ask them if they understand what is required
  • Find out which questions they find most concerning.
  • Suggest they fill in the easy questions first.
  • Discuss using strengths gained from their autism as evidence for competencies. Probe to find strengths.

Actions after appointment

  • Agree on clear achievable steps for the student to take after the appointment.
  • Email them to the student.
  • Write a journal note to record this.