Mentoring autistic employees

Mentoring is a partnership between two people in which the mentor (an experienced person doing the guiding) assists the mentee (the person being guided) to help them towards personal and/or work-related goals.

Mentoring involves listening and helping the mentee to identify and work towards their own goals

A workplace mentor could be helpful initially to assist with settling into a job, and on an ongoing to support in the resolution of future concerns. You could also utilise a buddy system, as a more dialogue-driven form of mentorship.

Mentors can also be brought in from outside the organisation to support your staff. Funding from Access to Work could be used to finance a workplace mentor.

A good mentor can make a big difference for the employment of an autistic person. The most important attribute is the ability to listen and work in partnership with the individual. It is vital that a mentor be well-trained with an in-depth understanding of autism. That way, your autistic employee will be able to work with someone they can trust. If you are appointed as a mentor for an autistic person you must always:

  • Be sensitive to the sensory environment – Always ask what sensory sensitivities your mentee might have. Keep these sensitives in mind when planning meetings.
  • Be respectful – It is important to treat everyone with respect and compassion. Keep the social model of autism in mind, and never view your mentee as someone who needs to change.
  • Listen – In addition to listening to someone’s words, you can also consider their body language and the way that they communicate, verbally and nonverbally.
  • Respond to the individual – There is no one solution for everyone!
  • Be positive – Acknowledge the struggle the person is facing but focus on finding effective solutions.
  • Build capability – Act with and not for the individual so that they learn the skills that they need.
  • Give plenty of time – Autistic people may take longer to process social or sensory information, so use fewer words and allow time for what you say to be understood
  • Meet frequently – In addition to meeting at a consistent and routine time, it is important to meet often. The more frequently you meet, the quicker you can learn about your mentee’s concerns and work to collaboratively solve them.