Dos and don’ts when managing special needs employees

Equip the office to accommodate the needs of the employee. [iStockphoto]

The world should be a community where everybody is equal, no matter the race, gender, ethnicity or physical condition. There are people who are differently abled and they should be accommodated in society and at work. 

In a work environment, employers need to be open-minded and sensitive to the needs of those who are different. Discrimination and hardships should be avoided, creating a positive work environment where the employer is supportive.

Here are some of the dos and don’ts in handling special needs employees:


1. Research and learn about the disability before their reporting day

Equip the office to accommodate the needs of the new employee.

For instance, a blind employee will need a brail system at his desk.

2. Know tier limitations

An employee should have concrete information on what the new employee can and cannot do.

3. Establish isolation space for meltdowns

A special needs employee may have experiences that could involve or create high tension.

For example, an epileptic worker may collapse at the desk and will need a private space for first aid. An autistic patient can go to a private room and calm nerves.

4. Have staff in place to help

A guidance and counselling staff can frequently check on the needy members to curb meltdowns.

5. Involve them in all activities to feel part of the team

Some may be slower than the rest of the team, but they should be allowed to finish the tasks at their pace.

6. Equal work should be proportional to equal pay

Both special needs and regular staff should receive equal benefits at work such as salary, day-offs, commissions etc.

7. Affirm workers and appreciate them

Motivation works best. Small wins should be acknowledged with high regards to boost esteem levels and competence in the worker.

8. Treat them with dignity and respect

An employer should make it known that all staff are equal. Preferential treatment should only occur in extreme cases, which should also be highly avoided.

9. Explain the rules and give them more than one chance to correct an error

10. Allow them to express themselves.


1. Never isolate them from activities assuming they don’t know or don’t want to participate.

2. Never fire them for manifesting their disabilities: It’s very wrong to do this as a boss because it might destroy their self-confidence and mental health.

3. Ask for permission before moving any of their office items or touching them.

4. Never ignore or scold them.

5. They may interpret it as negative energy against them. 

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