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Careers tips on providing autism friendly advice

Information from Careers 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 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. People with autism 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. For example, 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.
  • May be prone to sensory overload, for example, difficulties filtering out background noise.
  • May be under-sensitive to any of the seven senses.
  • May not make eye contact.
  • Loss of concentration, for example, focussing on other stimuli such as noise.
  • Obsessive with timings, for example, 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. For example, close the door, turn off air conditioning, or alter the lighting.
  • Be clear and direct when asking questions, for example, ‘who are you writing this CV for?’. Avoid ambiguous questions such as ‘how do you feel about…’
  • Be specific and directional with instructions. For example, ‘when you get home, go on your laptop and find the job specification. Look at the eligibility criteria....’
  • Be prescriptive and 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. For example, is it too loud? 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 on to 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 the 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 involve working with people, you could tell them to describe how they work in a team.
  • Discuss disclosure if appropriate, for example, if 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.

Enquiries

If you have any questions, please contact us.


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