Autism and Disabilities in the Workplace


In just the United States, 48.9 million people have some form of disability or another. Be they physical or mental impairments, these disabilities can put limitations on their lives. What does managing employees with autism or other disabilities look like in the workplace? Working with employees with disabilities can bring up great challenges when managing your team and understanding the way they work and communicate. It is very valuable to give these individuals an opportunity in the workplace, allowing them a chance to grow. At the same time, it’s vital to know how to properly care for them and lead them well. How can we effectively run a business while accommodating those with disabilities? EAP services go a long way toward this process, helping to provide the resources you need for your team. Here is more information about what autism looks like in the workplace, how to help, and what EAP services can do for you.


What Is Autism/How to Help These Employees?

In order to understand your employees with autism, you first must know what it is. According to, autism is a neurological developmental disability, impacting one to two percent of the American and worldwide population. They also share that each person’s experience with autism can be widely different. Your employees with this disability may work differently in the way they communicate, relate socially, and in the way they process and function. So how do you help them perform well in the workplace? 

The first thing is to learn the way your specific employee interacts and communicates. As with any other employee, patience is key. Another helpful approach is to encourage them while also correcting them directly. The direct approach is typically an effective way to communicate with employees with autism. Encourage them and then encourage them to follow your lead in communicating directly. However, this could also vary depending on the personality of the employee. It’s also important to note that employees with autism may struggle to understand things like facial expressions, humor, and other social behaviors, and will likely need a fairly strict schedule to succeed. Try and determine reasonable accommodations for both you and your employees with disabilities. Finally, remember that our Management Assistance Program is an excellent resource for your supervisors and managers. Consultations and on-going assistance is accessible to them regarding these matters.


Benefits of EAP Services with Disabilities in the Workplace


• 50% of all long-term disability claims include a psychiatric component.

• Disability related costs represent approximately 10% of a company’s payroll.


These statistics show what major costs can come with disabilities and the resources you need as a company that employs those with disabilities. EAP services not only help to fund mental health treatment for your employees but they also provide assistance with matters related to legal, financial, work-life, and wellness. EAP services can take a little bit of the pressure off and allow employees with disabilities to have a level playing field to excel just like any other employee.

Question: We have an employee who is on the autism spectrum. He’s a great worker and we have accommodated some of his needs, like ensuring that the office has less noise and no fluorescent light. Is the EAP able to address the needs of special workers like this person, who may have mental health counseling needs like other employees?*

Answer: EAPs are able to work with any employee referred to them by self- or supervisor referral and will seek ways to communicate and engage so a client’s needs are met in the EAP interview. EAPs do not claim to have specialized knowledge about every problem brought to them. However, using the EAP as a starting point offers tremendous advantages no matter what the problem might be. These include: 1) a free and confidential interview by a professionally trained listener who is committed to impartiality in the next step of treatment or resource referral; 2) an experienced person with expert knowledge about community and counseling resources; 3) a professional who is willing to expend the effort, no matter how rigorous, in locating the proper referral source; and 4) follow-ups to ensure the proper help was received and any roadblocks were overcome in the EAP client successfully engaging with that help.*

We hope this information has been helpful to your team as you seek to understand more about working with those with disabilities. It’s so vital that we seek to give these employees opportunities and grow them to the best of our abilities as employers. It will benefit them greatly and have a positive impact on your work culture, and overall morale.

Here’s another helpful article on how employee assistance program providers can help you be a good supervisor to your employees.


Care Plus Solutions is America’s first EAP and is headquartered in New York and has offices in New Jersey. Over the course of the company’s 46 year history, their brand has remained firmly rooted in the rich history of the EAP field, never losing sight of the fundamental purpose of the EAP; delivering personal and quality services to those in need. It is fair to say that Care Plus Solutions is the gold standard in the field of Employee Assistance.


* Copyright ©2020 by DFA Publishing & Consulting, LLC.


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