What I Want Non-Autistic Colleagues To Understand

Because us autistic folks shouldn’t have to keep explaining

Jae L
7 min readMay 27


Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash

If you’ve spent time in any kind of work environment, at some point you’ve probably seen someone cast out the throw-away line: I think they’re on the spectrum. Or perhaps they’re hedging their bets with: they might be a bit on the spectrum.

It seems everyone in the workplace has an idea of what being autistic looks like, while at the same time oblivious to the presence of actually autistic co-workers in their midst.

The prevalence of diagnosed autistic adults is estimated at around 1 in 50. If you add those who have self-identified because they can’t access assessment processes and those who haven’t self-identified because the dominant narrative of autism doesn’t fit, the numbers rocket. Expand this to include other forms of neurodivergence, most notably ADHD, and we’re dealing with a significant chunk of the population.

Yet one of the biggest barriers to autistic employment is lack of awareness in workplaces of what it is to be autistic or neurodivergent. Many highly skilled and capable autistic people are excluded from workplaces that fail to accommodate them because their needs are not understood or taken seriously.

Stereotypes and misconceptions about autism abound. Even supposedly helpful information designed to guide employers just reinforces a narrow understanding of autistic experience. We are blunt, literal and rigid. We don’t like change and we have poor communication skills. The autistic worker is viewed through a neurotypical lens; and judged by neurotypical standards. For an autistic person trying to be understood in the workplace, it’s just more to overcome.

People might think they know an autistic person in their workplace but they’re operating from a surface level of understanding. They might be ready to brand their colleague autistic because they’re a stickler for procedure or routine or correct grammar and formatting. Perhaps their fellow worker seems a bit obsessed with detail. It’s pretty similar to declaring that someone with a penchant for neatness and order to be a bit OCD.

When people’s knowledge of autism doesn’t extend beyond the stereotypical autistic traits…



Jae L

Queer, neurodivergent and in the business of defying expectations. Doing my best to answer the questions I keep asking myself. diverge999@gmail.com