Autistic Men in the Workplace: An Interpretative Phenomenological Study

Derham-Boyce, Leah (2016) Autistic Men in the Workplace: An Interpretative Phenomenological Study. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of working experiences of autistic adults was conducted. Four male participants with past or current experience of working were recruited through social media and organisations like the National Autistic Society. Three participants were interviewed electronically using a typing-only program, and one was given a written questionnaire comprising the same interview questions. IPA underpinned the design of the study and was the analytic method. Two main superordinate themes were found: Workplace Challenges (which comprises sensory sensitivity, anxiety and coping strategies) and Workplace Relationships (which encompasses issues relating to disclosure, quality of relationships). It was concluded that autistic workers face a number of difficulties which they learn to cope with through coping strategies like control or avoidance. Masking difficulties through strategies which hide but do not necessarily reduce difficulty was also observed. The nature of the difficulty experienced as a result of anxiety or sensory sensitivity was also discussed. However, sensory sensitivity was not always a difficulty or impairment – for some it was a source of pleasure or a valued occupational skill. Additionally, participants reported a certain amount of distance from others, which they enjoyed. Issues with communication and unintentionally causing offense were reported but could sometimes be resolved through disclosure. For the most part, disclosure was followed by negative experiences with others, and therefore represents a key issue that all participants have had to consider at some point in their careers. Limitations and implications for the future are discussed.

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