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Working with Autism and Sensory Sensitivities: 3 ABA Tips!

Working with Autism and Sensory Sensitivities: 3 ABA Tips!

Table of Contents

How Can Individuals with Autism and Sensory Sensitivities Thrive at Work?

When thinking about the workplace, many of us visualize a bustling atmosphere filled with conversations, ringing phones, and the hum of activity. For many neurotypical folks, this experience is not always fun. However, it’s, at the very least, tolerable. Unfortunately, for some individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the noisy, chaotic environment many consider typical in employment can be overwhelming.

Working with autism can be difficult for some with the condition due to the sensory sensitivities and other complex features of ASD they experience. In fact, when some families consider the workplace and their loved one’s ASD traits, they question, “How can individuals with autism and sensory sensitivities thrive at work?”

Fortunately, with proactive planning, accommodations, and ABA support, many on the spectrum experience outstanding workdays and go on to have significant careers.

In many cases, workplace functionality for people with autism includes appropriate behavior and demonstrating self-awareness and impulse control across settings. ABA therapy, also called applied behavior analysis, focuses on the fundamentals of developing and understanding socially significant behavior, like adapting oneself to social demands and demonstrating autonomy. These skills help ensure the person’s ASD doesn’t act as a barrier to a healthy work life.

 This guide by ABA Centers of Florida will walk you through practical strategies and ABA insights that can help make navigating the professional world smoother and more enjoyable for people on the spectrum or who have a loved one who is. Additionally, we will explore accommodations in the work environment that can help reduce sensory overload in those who experience it.

Finally, we will discuss how ABA can help many in their childhood and teenage years prepare for better future experiences working with autism. So, keep reading to learn more about how to thrive with autism in the workplace and ways you can prepare your child for successful employment experiences with ABA therapy.

Click here for more information about ABA Centers of Florida or to read our other blogs about autism, ABA, and sensory sensitivities.

Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder and Sensory Sensitivities

Autism is a developmental disorder that affects communication, behavior, and sensory processing in many, according to the CDC.  Some individuals with ASD experience sensory issues, making daily noise and activities more distracting or even painful.

In most cases, sensory processing refers to how our nervous system interprets and receives sensory information from the environment, including:    

  • Sound
  • Light
  • Touch
  • Taste
  • Smell

Sensory Issues and ASD in the Workplace

For many without proper strategies or accommodations, sensory overload can be debilitating in the workplace. According to Autism Speaks, some individuals with autism demonstrate the following in response to the various sensory experiences:

  • Hypersensitivity (over-responsiveness)
  • Hyposensitivity (under-responsiveness)

In a typical office environment, sensory challenges might manifest in various ways that may present difficulties to those with autism, including but not limited to the following:

  • Noise Sensitivity: Loud conversations, ringing phones, or even the hum of fluorescent lights.
  • Visual Overload: Bright lights, clutter, or busy computer screens can make focusing difficult.
  • Touch Sensitivity: Uncomfortable seating, certain fabrics, or unexpected touches or textures.
  • Smell Sensitivity: Strong smells, such as perfumes or cleaning products, can be overstimulating.
  • Taste Sensitivity: Distaste for certain foods and textures may limit food options during office lunches or events.

These features of work life with ASD can be unnerving and even feel traumatizing over time for some.

The Impact of Sensory Issues and ASD on Job Performance

For many with ASD, managing sensory sensitives in the workplace is not just a matter of comfort but a crucial aspect of job performance and social interaction. A workplace environment that fails to accommodate the needs of those with autism can result in decreases in productivity, heightened anxiety, or social withdrawal, in addition to the other problematic features previously explored.

Additionally, misunderstanding, not addressing, or overlooking these challenges can also lead to unfair assessments of the capabilities of ASD employees, which can impact their job performance and growth potential, making it essential.

Social Interactions at Work and ASD Features

Avoiding eye contact, withdrawing from group discussions, or needing frequent breaks, among other common ASD behaviors, can come off as disinterested or rude to others, affecting social interactions at work. However, explaining these ASD behaviors as responses to sensory overload can help establish a more compassionate and supportive workplace environment where colleagues understand their coworkers’ differences without judging them.

The Role of Applied Behavior Analysis in Addressing Sensory Sensitivities

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a well-established approach for supporting individuals with ASD. ABA therapy focuses on understanding the why behind a behavior and then shaping access to a need through positive reinforcement. ABA also focuses on replacing unhelpful behaviors with more productive ones that attain the same effect.

When applied to sensory issues, ABA can help individuals identify specific triggers and develop ABA strategies to manage and communicate their sensitives or needs more effectively.

3 ABA Skillsets for Working With Autism and Sensory Sensitives

Through teaching various daily living skills and more, ABA therapy can equip ASD individuals with the skills they need to perform well at work. Some ways that ABA therapy can prepare children and teenagers with autism for future work obligations include:

  1. Social skills training: ABA therapy can teach critical socialization, nonverbal communication, managing emotions, and handling sensory challenges in a work setting.
  2. Independence skills: ABA therapy helps to shape independence and increase problem-solving skills in many who receive it, which are essential for navigating the workplace.
  3. Job readiness training: With ABA support, individuals with autism can receive job readiness training to learn specific job-related skills, such as time management and following instructions.

Practical Strategies for Individuals with ASD to Manage Sensory Overload at Work

When it comes to managing sensory overload in the workplace, there are several practical strategies that individuals with ASD can use to prepare for the workplace with autism proactively:

  • Plan: One of the best ways to handle sensory overload is by preparing. Proactive preparation may include bringing noise-canceling headphones, having fidget tools on hand, or preparing a schedule for breaks.
  • Communicate: Competent communication is a vital aspect of success for many employees, but it becomes even more critical for individuals with ASD.
  • Request Reasonable ASD Accommodations: Accommodations for autism may include requesting a flexible work schedule or adjusting the workspace environment to be more conducive to your needs.

How Employers Can Establish Autism and Sensory-Friendly Workplaces

In addition to individual strategies, there are also ways that employers can create a sensory-friendly workplace for individuals with ASD:

  • Allow for sensory breaks: Ensure employees with autism can take regular breaks throughout the day at work to manage sensory overload. These breaks may include time in a quiet space or designated sensory room.
  • Incorporate flexible workspaces: Flexibility in workspace design helps employees with autism feel more comfortable and productive. Employers can help achieve this by offering options for standing desks, adjustable lighting, or dedicated quiet areas.
  • Train coworkers: Companies can improve training experiences around neurodiversity by hosting workshops that discuss autism acceptance and offer resources to increase awareness and empathy for those with ASD.
  • Honor reasonable ASD accommodation requests whenever possible: Employers should do everything possible to accommodate ASD employees’ requests for accommodations to ensure a safe and productive work environment for everyone.

Working with Autism Is More Possible with the Help of ABA Therapy

With the right strategies and accommodations in place, individuals with ASD can flourish in the workplace and even leverage their neurodiversity as a massive strength through their contributions. Many employers play a crucial role in creating a supportive and inclusive work atmosphere for employees with ASD.

These companies’ actions can influence how global society approaches employing those with ASD, offering those on the spectrum more opportunities to demonstrate their diverse perspectives and rich talents.

At the same time, caregivers can provide invaluable support to those with ASD through education and early intervention services like ABA therapy for better work-life experiences.

So, continue to educate yourself on ways to help your loved one with ASD or yourself at work before the time comes! Happy ABA learning from us!

More about Better Habits for Successful Futures with ABA Centers of Florida!

ABA Centers of Florida is a leading provider of ABA therapy and autism diagnostic services for individuals with ASD living in regions including:

  • Jensen Beach
  • Tampa
  • Doral
  • Bradenton
  • Kissimmee
  • Orlando
  • Boca Raton
  • Davenport
  • Kissimmee
  • Melbourne

We are passionate about helping those with autism fulfill their dreams, including landing a job that sees and values them for who they are.

Our team of ABA experts provides individual ABA care plans to address the distinct needs and nurture the passions of every child and teen we guide.  

Contact ABA Centers of Florida to learn more about our ABA services and how we can assist you or your loved one on the spectrum via this online link or by calling (772) 773-1975.

We also work tremendously hard to offer helpful resources to families, caregivers, and employers who want to learn more about autism and inclusivity in all aspects of life. So don’t hesitate to reach us.

Together, let’s work towards a more accepting future for everyone!

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