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