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Although social skills may not be necessary for your young adult to perform the actual job, they may be needed to help them keep the job or be more socially included at work. The social skills demanded vary from place to place, but there are basic skills that every employee should know. This blog post provides an overview of the areas where your autistic young adult may need assistance or training to perform the job.

OAR’s guidebook, A Guide for Transition to Adulthood (2nd edition, 2021), provides tips and worksheets to help autistic young adults navigate the transition process. This blog post and infographic (adapted from the Transition Guide) share workplace-specific social skills for autistic individuals.


Personal Presentation

As an employee, your young adult will represent the company they work for. People make judgments about an individual based on appearance. Therefore, it is important to present oneself appropriately and professionally. Aspects of personal presentation include:

  • Age- and job-appropriate clothing and footwear
  • General cleanliness and good hygiene
  • Grooming of hair, teeth, and nails
  • Interpersonal greetings ranging from someone saying “hello” to high fives, fist or elbow bumps, and initiating an introduction


Communication Skills

Some autistic individuals have trouble effectively communicating their wants, needs, likes, or dislikes to others. Scripts can be developed to practice typical work social situations. As such, instruction in the following communication skill sets may help:

  • Expressing preferences or likes
  • Ordering one’s lunch
  • Excusing oneself to use the restroom
  • When, and with whom, it might be appropriate to start a conversation
  • Listening skills
  • Obtaining help when necessary
  • Level of response to others
  • Eye contact during regular interaction
  • Voice volume, tone, and tempo


Social Behaviors

Social behaviors, by definition, are particularly challenging for autistic individuals. Complicating this issue is the belief among many employers that social competence on the job (e.g., being a team player) is as important as production competence. Therefore, some areas of social competence that should be covered in your transition plan include:

  • General manners, including responding to greetings, not interrupting others, etc.
  • Table manners, particularly if one wants to be socially included with colleagues during lunch
  • Awareness of others’ personal space across all work environments
  • Understanding private behavior as being different from public behavior
  • Recognizing when assistance is needed and obtaining it
  • Tolerance of unusual sounds, actions, behavior of others, and changes in schedule of activities
  • Social rules regarding the appropriate touching of others
  • What to do during breaks
  • What to talk about and what not to talk about at work (confidentiality)


This post was adapted from A Guide for Transition to Adulthood (2021). Click here to download or order the newly updated guide.