Autism awareness week: Lived experience by CEO of Legal Studio Ian McCann

Mental Health

Do you remember what it was like to manually tune a radio? Bursts of clear, crisp sound interwoven with sparkling dancing static. Volume rising and falling, crackling, popping then suddenly, fleetingly, a voice that was gone as quickly as it came. Keep those sounds in your head.

Have you ever been to a nightclub with flashing lights of every imaginable colour? Bright one second, dim the next. Constantly rotating, flashing, spinning and whirling. Try and keep that image in your mind’s eye too.

Do you wear perfume or aftershave? Does it trigger memories for you? Does it remind you of someone or something? And are those good or bad memories? Try and keep that scent in mind too.

Now, imagine adding all of those together. Turned up 500 fold. Sounds grating on you, stopping you from concentrating. The light dancing before your eyes, distracting you from seeing what’s in front of you. And the smell filling up your brain with images and thoughts that aren’t in the here and now. The combined set of all three together placing you in physical pain. Now, can you please draft me a complicated letter within the next 20 minutes on a difficult subject, using multiple sources? And make sure you don’t make any mistakes!

This was the reality of parts of my working life as an Autistic adult. The sounds, images and smells of the office (which were entirely innocent and innocuous to others) placing me in physical pain due to sensory overload. And tight deadlines with zero tolerance for mistakes on top. It very nearly broke me. But it doesn’t have to be like that. 

Autism is a lifelong neurological difference that affects how people communicate and interact with the world. One in 100 people are on the autism spectrum and there are around 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK. Autistic people may experience over (or under) sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light, colours, temperatures or pain. And, according to the National Autistic Society, only 17% of Autistic Adults are in full-time employment.

However, an Autistic team member can bring an entirely different perspective to the workplace and your team. They are a different Neurotype after all. So, if you’re an employer, whether your people are in the office, at home or a mix of the two, please make sure you’re still thinking about what reasonable adjustments you ought to be making for your existing or any newly hired neurodiverse staff. They usually don’t cost much. They’re always cheaper than an Employment Tribunal. And, best of all, they allow you to get the best out of your team. And who doesn’t want their team performing at their best?

I understand that these things can be daunting. Or that people are frightened of saying the wrong thing. However, once you’ve acknowledged that you need to make adjustments, just asking what would help the employee without pre-judging the answer is easily the best start. But, if you’re still not sure what you ought to be doing or what your obligations are, then I’d strongly recommend speaking to the team at Thrive. They can really help you help your people and get the best out of your team.

Written by CEO of Legal Studio Ian McCann

Do you know what to do when it comes to your employee’s mental health?

Thrive Wellbeing is a mental health programme helping businesses to change their approach to employee mental health. Our 12-month wellbeing programme package is dedicated to helping you and your team champion mental health and offers something for everyone. The Thrive Wellbeing Programme has various online modules to complete, with guides for management, template policies, forms and emails, all ready to download and use in your business. As well as all these resources at your fingertips, you’ll receive regular email and video updates to help you keep the conversations going.

This is an online interactive platform to create a healthy and inclusive workplace, it offers expert advice and support on mental health in the workplace! The programme has outstanding long-term benefits for businesses in terms of promoting a healthy and barrier-free workplace leading to reduced sickness absences and increased productivity amongst your staff!

Please get in touch here to invest in your business and your employees!


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