Taking everything literally, placing a high value on routine and being very sensitive to incentives. These are just a few of the features that people with developmental disability encounter with autism. The characteristics within the spectrum vary enormously. As an environment, how do you deal with the most important key brands?
Two days a week, experience expert Mathilde van der Westerlaken works as a project employee and trainer at Warehouse0766, a project for people with autism who are sitting at home. She rests for the rest of the week. "Stimuli come in hard for me," she explains. "This makes me tired quickly and needs a lot of time to recover."
That does not mean that everyone with developmental disability can only work for half a week. "One person with autism is more sensitive to stimuli than the other," explains Van der Westerlaken. "I know people who work forty hours a week."
The spectrum for people with autism is very broad, says Astrid Palte, regional consultant at the Dutch Association for Autism (NVA). "The one has many more characteristics than the other, but what applies to everyone who has developmental disorder is that his or her brain works differently. Someone with autism processes information in a very different way," Palte explains. "That can mean slower, but also faster. Someone with autism can be three steps ahead in his or her thinking."
Another characteristic of many people with autism is that they take many things literally and do not know how to interpret non-verbal behavior. Palte gives an example of a misunderstanding that can occur in the workplace. "If you as a boss ask if you 'have some time later', someone with autism can get confused. Soon and after all are not concrete concepts." She advises to communicate as clearly as possible. "Say for example: do you have ten minutes at 4 pm?"
"If routine is interrupted, someone with autism can be very upset by it." Astrid Palte, Dutch association for autism
Many people with autism also need clarity and structure in the rest of their lives. "They have to get up and have breakfast at a fixed time," Palte explains. "If that routine is interrupted, someone with autism can be very upset by it."
It pays to delve into the brain of someone with autism. Palte: "If you understand how things like this work with someone with autism, you can understand them better."
Don't think for someone else
Van de Westerlaken can confirm this. She encounters incomprehension when she is tired. "I sometimes have that", she is told regularly. But according to her, you minimize the problem. "In people with autism, things like sound, wind and smell often come in harder. That is extremely tiring."
What you have to watch out for is that you don't start thinking for someone. "Do not enter for someone what they can or cannot do," says van der Westerlaken. "People sometimes think that giving training costs me too much energy, while sitting at the office is much more tiring for me."
See also: 'Girls often only get autism diagnosis when the situation escalates'