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How to create inclusive assessment centres for people on the autism spectrum

Here are 5 top tips to provide an equity of opportunity

Fighting discrimination and navigating how to promote an inclusive society is a layered and nuanced process. Diversity comes in various forms and involves different approaches for each representation. We can all find ourselves contributing to discrimination without even realising it sometimes, which is why we must do our research and turn to those who experience society from a different perspective to lead the way, especially when it comes to work or apprenticeship opportunities.

Autism covers a wide range of profiles across a nuanced spectrum. Due to the differences in the approaches for diagnosis, terms have become a source of confusion. A commonly given term is ‘autism spectrum disorder’ (ASD), alongside a particular profile presented by an individual such asasperger syndrome’ and ‘pathological demand avoidance (PDA)1.’

Often classed as a learning difficulty, this is actually inaccurate. Not everyone with ASD has learning disabilities, mental health issues or other related conditions1. This is why, due to the complicated nature of autism, creating a fair and measured assessment centre for people with ASD can help shine a light on their full potential and reveal what jobs they are best suited for2.

Here are our top 5 tips for creating inclusive assessment centres for people with an autism spectrum disorder:

Allow applicants to share their ASD at any time during the process

Giving applicants the chance to share their ASD during each phase of the assessment process allows them and you the chance to make fair adjustments for an equitable process. Think about offering candidates a checklist that has a range of conditions they can be open about, or a comment box that lets them note their autism if they feel comfortable doing so. Make it clear that you will make adjustments if needed to ensure they are given an equal opportunity.

Create an inclusive assessment centre that highlights all applicants’ abilities

When it comes to the interview process, assessment centres should look at whether the evaluation process is a fair way of working out all candidates’ abilities. The likelihood of an individual’s success in a role can differ dramatically, so offering a variety of tasks or activities that showcase a wider range of skills offers every candidate the chance to shine. It also gives a greater overview of each candidate’s suitability for the job. For example, those with ASD can outperform their peers when it comes to written engineering and technology tests, but will more often than not struggle with the group-based exercises that assess team-work.

This means companies are missing out on these brilliant technicians because of their social limitations. One way to offset this inequality is to offer those with ASD the chance to write their ideas down during the group session and submit them at the end. Another way is to ask for every individual’s ideas one by one during the exercise.

Ensure an equity of resources and time

For those who are neurodivergent, there are various adjustments you can make to ensure a fairer assessment process. Whether it’s having an agenda for the day sent to those with ASD in advance, an assistant on hand to support them during the day, or an allocation of more time for written tasks, their needs should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. The ultimate aim is to ensure the ASD individuals are given an fair and equal opportunity to demonstrate their strengths.

Give as much information as possible around expectations

Clarity is an essential element of inclusivity when it comes to those on the autism spectrum. ASD individuals tend to take things literally and often find vagueness difficult and confusing. So, being as clear, concise and informative as possible before their visit to an assessment centre is key. This can be as simple as sending an itinerary that uses direct and straightforward language, or even a video or audio explanation of what is in store and what is expected of them on the day.

Recognise and reduce bias during the assessment

Everyone on the autism spectrum is a unique individual. Their experiences and the manifestation of their neurodiversity will not be the same as other individuals who share the same differences. It’s important to remember this and be aware of your own unconscious (or conscious!) bias when assessing candidates. Always ask yourself whether you are being as fair as possible in your evaluation methods.

By taking these steps, organisations will be meeting the Equality Act 2010 and taking the ‘reasonable adjustments’ required to meet their guidelines2. Those on the autism spectrum can thrive in roles that lend themselves to their exceptional skills. However, getting and keeping jobs can be difficult for individuals with an autism expression that affects their social skills. That is why it is important to understand the needs of neurodivergent individuals and make reasonable adjustments, ensuring they have a fair chance to build their career and become an asset in their workplace.

For more content like this, check out our blog here: https://equalengineers.com/blog/

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References

  1. Autism.org.uk. Autism facts and history. Source article: https://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is/myths-facts-stats.aspx
  2. Autism.org.uk. Recruiting an autistic employee. Source article: https://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is/myths-facts-stats.aspx

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