Autism is a developmental disorder that is characterised by difficulties with social communication, social interaction and social imagination. It is a spectrum condition, which means that while some people are severely affected, others may be only mildly affected. Autism is one of a number of conditions which are increasingly being referred to under the umbrella-term Neurodivergence in attempt to reframe common negative misconceptions of the condition. Autistic people have a number of strengths including in areas such as their focus on a particular passion, their meticulous approach to detail or their ability to spot patterns in data.
They may however struggle with empathising with other people, or knowing what they are thinking. They can find it difficult to read body language, and find it hard to understand and fit in with a society with many unwritten rules. This may lead to anxiety and depression, and also to outbursts of frustration and anger. They can be unusually sensitive to sensory stimuli. They may find the world confusing and unpredictable.
In the right role, autistic people can be very successful, but potential difficulties may include:
- Having a very narrow focus on one's own work, and lacking interest in other aspects of the department’s work.
- Problems interacting with other people and preferring solitary work.
- Difficulty carrying out management roles without the appropriate support.
- Additional support may be needed if the individual is in a role requiring interaction with students or members of the public. They may be perceived as naive, pedantic, rude or offensive. They may also fail to spot or respond appropriately to other people's distress or concerns.
People with autism may do well in more technical roles, drawing on possible strengths in meticulous attention to detail, in consistency checking, in pattern spotting or in following set procedures.