Autism is a social communication difficulty which means that some people with autism can find accessing services difficult.
That’s why it’s important that businesses have a basic awareness of the condition and can respond in the most appropriate way possible.
What you can do
There are number of ways you can help make life easier for people with autism and improve service delivery.
Top tips to get you started
- Get to know the individual and their strengths
- Speak calmly and clearly in short sentences
- Ask direct and closed questions, avoid too many choices or too much information in one go
- Wait for responses to questions, do not repeat yourself or ask in a different way
- Little or no eye contact does not mean that the person is not listening to you, start a sentence with the person’s name so that they know you are addressing them
- Language should be kept as literal as possible - jokes, metaphors or sarcasm can be confusing
- Check that the person understands what you have said, verbal signs of agreement may not mirror actual understanding of the information.
Apply for the Autism Friendly Business Award
To help businesses become more Autism friendly, we’ve worked with local autistic people to create the Autism Friendly Business Award.
Become an Autism Friend
Autism friends are free one-hour awareness sessions that help people better understand how those living with autism will encounter situations and what they can do to break down barriers. Sessions are held regularly across Wigan Borough.
You also have the option of becoming an ‘Autism Champion’ so you can deliver the awareness sessions yourself.
Recognise the Autism Friendly Wigan Passport
This is a small document that can be used by people who have an autism diagnosis to identify themselves and access a wide range of services throughout the borough. These include:
- GP surgeries, dentists
- Wigan Council services
- Leisure facilities
- Rugby and football stadiums
- Supermarkets and shopping centres
We would like all services across the borough to recognise the Autism Friendly Wigan Passport and for staff to respond positively to anybody that produces one of these when accessing services.
For some people with autism, processing of information can sometimes be difficult - this includes verbal and written communication. To ensure the information you provide is easy to understand for people with autism, you should:
- Avoid the use of jargon and acronyms
- Use plain English that is easy to understand
- Give serious consideration to using ‘easy read’ documentation, this can be useful when producing minutes of meetings
- Make information available without people having to ask for it, this can be done by placing information on your website.
Make new environments more familiar
Visiting an environment that is unfamiliar to a person with autism can sometimes cause anxiety and so it’s important that steps are taken to make people feel more comfortable when visiting somewhere new. You can do this by:
- Arranging an informal visit to your place of work prior to any meeting or appointment to allow the person to become more familiar with the environment
- Giving the person more time for their appointment so that they don’t feel rushed
- Giving the person either the first or last appointment of the day as some autistic people can find waiting around to be really stressful
- Uploading pictures or videos of your building on your website which can really help people with autism to become more familiar with the layout and feel of the place. A number of services in Wigan have already invested in virtual video guides of their buildings made by iROAM.
Make meetings more comfortable
When involving people with autism in meetings the following steps can help make the meeting more comfortable.
- Consistent venue - Sticking to a venue that is comfortable for all is important, changing venues from meeting to meeting is likely to cause some problems
- Avoid using a venue that’s too noisy (e.g. near a busy road) or has strong smells
- Allow people to contribute to a meeting via e-mail before and after the meeting
- Ensure that easy read versions of the agenda and minutes are shared at least two weeks prior to the meeting
- Use a timed agenda, stick to the timings and include a broken down agenda with a brief explanation of each item
- Consider dimming or turning off the lights - Some people on the autism spectrum are extremely sensitive to light
- Use visible name cards for each attendee
- Encourage key information to be repeated.