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Which autism accommodations have helped you / your colleagues?

0ctavia profile image Octa ・2 min read

This will be a small drop in an ocean of posts, but I hope it can get some replies. I need help, and maybe at the same time this post can help others. As I'm starting out my career as an autistic developer, I am running into many difficulties, burnout, anger, lack of direction, overstimulation.

The pandemic has many of us working from home, which for autistic people means that there is a better control on over- or understimulating circumstances, noise, the clothes we can wear or not.
Satan being a huge fan of open plan offices
In general I think this is one area where adaptations can make life easier for autistic developers.

There is also the issue of videocalls. It has been proven they are tiring, for everyone. However they are still a big feature of WFH, and not every boss or colleague is understanding of your desire to turn off the camera, or to communicate via email, though I think those could be a step in the right direction.

One of the worst aspects in my work environment specifically has been the lack of structure. While Agile (the more common organisation in CS) has its perks and downfalls, it represents a system with rules and things one can plan for. If you have a less organised workplace but your colleagues are at a desk's distance, you can turn around and ask. However in remote working conditions "just ask" seems to work really badly. I think in this case it's one of the more complex areas to ask for accommodations, as you're asking colleagues to regularly go out of their way just to make you more comfortable - which is something else entirely than just letting you have noise-cancelling earphones.

In any case, please let me know what you think and what worked for you.

Discussion (6)

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sfiquet profile image
Sylvie Fiquet

It sounds like your company is not properly set up for remote working. If the only way the team communicates is through email and video calls, I'm not surprised it feels clunky and exhausting. Every time you need to reach out, you need to make an effort.

I can recommend Slack for working remotely as a team. There might be alternative solutions I'm not aware of but Slack works well and is fairly popular. It's like having an ongoing communication link to the team at all times. A bit like a messaging app but optimised for work. You can have a channel per project or per team and conversations are organised in threads. Since everybody has it on, it's fairly easy to ask for help and receive it (although that might depend on the size of your team and their general attitude). They have a demo site and you can try it for free.

Obviously moving to Slack would not just be an accommodation. The change would involve the whole team. But everybody would benefit, including the company because you would all be more productive. How much time is currently wasted because people (not just you) try to handle things on their own?

There's a cost involved which your company might not be keen on. Maybe you could suggest that your team tries the free version for a while. If it proves its worth, maybe your company will be willing to pay for it. Or maybe you could continue using the free version, I'm not sure. When I used Slack it was the free version, as part of an open source project. It's full-featured, it just limits the amount of history it keeps. Old history gets purged, which is why the paid version is better.

Sorry, I'm now re-reading the question and thinking maybe I went on a tangent. My 24 year old son is autistic. Emails cause him a lot of stress, whereas he's fairly comfortable on group messaging because it's less formal. Your case could be very different. But I think "just ask" is easier on Slack than with emails.

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0ctavia profile image
Octa Author

We use the messaging services provided inside the email provider, which is okay. I have worked with Slack before and I'm a fan, like your son it's easy for me to communicate like this. I tend to polish emails a lot and spend a lot of time deciding on words and commas, I don't know if it's the same for him.

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sfiquet profile image
Sylvie Fiquet

Ah, it's the same for me! No, my son's difficulties are at a different level. Having to write an email usually triggers a meltdown. If he manages to hold it together and actually writes it, it's extremely terse. Social anxiety is his worst enemy.

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sharpninja profile image
The Sharp Ninja

MS Teams is just about perfect. If their markdown rendering applied code colorization it would be perfect.

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sharpninja profile image
The Sharp Ninja

Dude, I've been working through this with varying levels of success for over 20 years. If you want to talk send me a private message.

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0ctavia profile image
Octa Author • Edited

I will, thanks (though I think you need to follow me back before I can do that).

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