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From Pixels to Picture: Exploring Central Coherence in the workplace


I recently started working with an extraordinary young man as my new client. His family reached out to me after their son faced some issues at his newly acquired job at a local grocery store – a significant milestone for him, supported by his family, school counselor, and the store's manager.


While everyone was thrilled about his job opportunity, trouble quickly ensued. Within weeks of starting, conflicts and frustrations arose for both him and his coworkers. After being sent home during one of his shifts in his second week, his parents contacted me, describing a common challenge for many individuals on the autism spectrum. It often gets mistaken as defiance or defensiveness by neurotypical colleagues. The saying, "Can't see the forest for the trees" is an apropos summation of these types of problems.


My client was so focused on wanting to do a "good job" that he didn't take the time to listen to his more experienced coworker's guidance. Unfortunately, he failed to realize that by doing so, he could improve his performance and foster a better working community. In his pursuit of doing a good job, he unintentionally hindered his own progress.


As autism diagnoses continue to rise, it is crucial to create inclusive workplaces that cater to the unique capabilities and needs of individuals on the spectrum. This brings us to the concept of central coherence.

In simple terms, central coherence refers to an individual's ability to see the "big picture." Dr. Uta Frith, a renowned authority in the autism field and an Emeritus Professor at University College London's Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, explains that individuals on the spectrum often have reduced central coherence, which means they struggle to make connections between unrelated information. This significantly affects their approach to tasks and reactions in the workplace.

So, here are a few key points to remember:


1. Support and guidance from experienced colleagues can be invaluable to neurodivergent individuals, helping them understand their roles and perform their jobs effectively.


2. Recognize that individuals on the autism spectrum may have a strong desire to excel but might require explicit instructions, visual aides, and explanations to navigate larger complex tasks.


3. Prioritize the creation of inclusive workplaces that embraces neurodiversity and ensures that individuals with autism have equal opportunities to succeed.

By fostering an environment that understands and supports central coherence, we can bridge the gap between neurodivergent employees and their neurotypical peers, leading to more productive, harmonious, and inclusive workplaces.


If you are an educator, parent, or organization seeking support in understanding and working with the neurodivergent community, then look no further than TeachtheSpectrum. We are dedicated to providing resources, guidance, and training to create more inclusive and accommodating environments for all individuals. Join us in building a more diverse and successful workforce. Visit: TEACHTHESPECTRUM to learn more.


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