Saturday, February 23, 2019

An Office Designed for Workers with Autism

Offices, for plenty of people, can occasionally be overwhelming, crowded with feelings too big for cubicles, too personal for a professional setting. A higher-up checks a watch midconversation; a comment in a meeting is talked over; someone and someone else go to lunch. Doubts flourish under fluorescent lights that expose every slight, every interpersonal hurdle.
And then there are people like Hirasuna, who are on the autism spectrum; people who feel bombarded by those same clues and cues, all the while knowing they are unreliable interpreters of their meaning. For some people with autism, socializing is an elaborate game with more exceptions than rules, so that any small decision — hover outside the boss’s office? don’t hover? — poses an insurmountable challenge. Guesswork is prevalent, misapprehension the norm. “When it is hard to read the room, so to speak, it does morph into anxiety over time,” said Grey Patton, a 23-year-old employee on the spectrum who graduated from the University of California, Riverside, last spring and who, like Hirasuna, started working at Auticon in January. “It’s moving in the dark without a flashlight.”