Many autistic adults have difficulty tolerating noise. We may experience adverse emotional reactions or extreme pain when exposed to different sounds. Sometimes we can tolerate some sounds but find others excruciatingly painful.
Ask yourself if you find it difficult to focus on one sound source when there are other background sources active at the same time (think a busy cafe, speaking on the phone while work colleagues are chatting in the room, or attempting to concentrate while multiple streams of sound surround you).
Apart from being a really difficult sensitivity to cope with, this sensory sensitivity can make certain workplace settings a huge challenge, and not well suited to your neurology.
From staggered lunchtime breaks to private offices - the space you work in may make a big difference in empowering you to work at your best without the challenges associated with auditory sensitivities.
Consider using noise-cancelling headphones, requesting a private workspace, moving your desk to a quieter corner of the office, installing soundproofing or even working from home if you can control your sensory environment better there.
You may benefit from live and recorded captioning services. Transcribing services can transform others' audio notes into text.
Communication by text: emails or text messages may be more beneficial to you than voice/video meetings.
Each person has their own unique mix of accommodation needs that will free them to work to their strengths.
Click the button below if you would like to arrange a consultation with our Occupational Therapist.
There are a number of different ways to communicate. You may find some simple adaptations could be very helpful to you in the workplace.
Some questions to consider:
Is it easier to communicate with your voice or by text?
If text is easier for you, you could request more text-based communications, eg emails rather than phone calls or video calls.
Do you find online video calls helpful or distracting?
In this time of remote working for many of us are using video calls. The increased sensory input of being consistently onscreen, watching yourself looking back at you, unable to move around naturally and having to find the right pauses to speak and take turns speaking can have a huge mental and emotional drain on us.
Adaptations on video calls could include: leaving your video off, typing in the 'chat box' instead of speaking, hiding your image of yourself if you must have the camera on (tip - zoom has a self-hide button/other people stick post-it notes on their computer screen to hide their image), and taking rest and movement breaks.
Are you a literal thinker?
The majority of autistic people naturally process language literally. When conversing with non-literal thinkers there may be communication differences which cause miscommunication of concepts. Some of us may have developed the ability to assess the context in which the speaker has used words and then be able to translate their message, even so, this extra translating burden costs us mental processing energy and can cause a delayed response.
Do you prefer open or closed questions?
Many autistic people find open questions where we can imagine multiple potential answers very difficult to respond to in a brief timeframe. We often find it easier to answer 'closed questions' where the requested information is very specific.
Do you prefer live or asynchronous communication?
Many of us prefer asynchronous communication where we have time to process what is being said/requested and time to consider our responses. If this resonates with you, you could request more asynchronous communication in your team, or adaptations such as receiving information about meetings in advance, and then extra time and opportunity to feedback to the team either between meetings or at the beginning of the next meeting.
If you would like to discuss your specific communication needs and adaptations to free you to work at your best, contact us for a free consultation to see how we can support you to self-advocate for your needs, and how we can support your workplace to become more neurodiverse friendly!