Finding employment when you’re autistic, can be tricky as there’s lots of factors you need to consider. Such as the working environment, the people you’ll be working with, the role itself, the journey to work and the hours you’d be obligated to do.
Again, with Autism, it isn’t a case of one size fits all. I enjoy working with kids and with the public. I enjoy variety and dealing with people on a one-to-one level. But at the same time, i can’t work in customer service – i.e. Retail. I think it all a bit overwhelming, and am suited more to a office or classroom based environment. But i know, some autistic people enjoy working in retail, or find it difficult working with children.
When i’ve managed to bag myself a job, i’m frequently told what such a good employee i am. But the process in which i go from being unemployed, to being employed can be challenging.
Not only am i trying to compete with people who don’t have disabilities. But i’m also competing against people with more experience and qualifications than myself.
Asides from that, being interviewed can be a bit daunting. Because it’s meeting someone, or in some cases multiple new people! And i’m having to ‘sell myself’, despite struggling with correct amount of eye contact, displaying confident, relaxed body language, and actually coming across confident in what i’m saying.
With this struggle, i receive a lot of rejections, saying that i wasn’t confident enough. So now, i let the employers know, before i’m invited for an interview. Just so that they’re aware, and hopefully not misinterpret my body language, etc. So far, this seems to be working better for me.
I had a temporary christmas retail job a few years ago. And in the first week, i had a work review. The first week! No one else that i worked with, that had the same job as me, got this. And i was told that i seemed unenthusiastic, unmotivated, unsure and hestiant when tasks are set for me and that i wasn’t pulling my weight.
This was just after 3 days being in the job. 3 days. They knew i have autism and, to be honest, like everyone else i was nervous and it takes time to settle in. And i responded with such. Which they noted down and nothing else was said. Yet it was kept in my file.
I had to sign an agreement of things i was going to do to improve myself.
Just to remind you this was after 3 days of being in a new job.
In my current job, as senior classroom assistant, i didn’t have any of that. Instead it was understood that, it would take me a little while – like anyone else, to settle in. And that mistakes would be made, but that i would learn from them. 5 months later i got a promotion.
The lesson that employers can learn from this, when employing autistic people is to give them some time and space to settle in, to get to grips with things. This may take a little longer than other people, but it well worth while. Because when we’re settled, we excel in the role and tasks set us. Frequently beyond your expectations of an employee.
Lots of autistic people experience bullying in the workplace. We tend to be an easy target. We can frustrate or appear confrontational to people, we can come across as blunt and insensitive, which can lead to conflict between us and others. But most often that not, we get bullied because we’re seen as anti-social and weird.
We can take things literal and people can also find it easy to boss us around.
All these things are unacceptable. And all of these things i’ve experience first hand.
In half of the cases they’re not dealt with properly and it has gotten to the point where i’ve had to quite that job. In the other half, management has stepped in and got it sorted. The other half should be over half!
Employers please be viligant of bullying in the workplace, and make sure that your most vulnerable employees aren’t secretly being taken advantage of, otherwise you could wrongly, lose some valuable employees.
Ugh, me and uniforms do not go well together. Polo shirts are fine. Shirt, shirts, no! Work/tailored trousers, dear god no.
Being an autistic person with hypersensitivity to touch, i find some fabrics irritating, uncomfortable or in some cases – painful.
Please be accomadating of clothes that you’d still find acceptable for me, and those like me, to wear. It may not be what you expect everyone else to wear, but still would be within reasonable parameters. Such as dresses, black plain leggings, black smart jeans, plain smart tops, etc.
Juggling multiple disabilities on a daily basis can be tricky, and if one of them is out of alignment, it can cause knock on effects with the others, so much so, i can’t cope and will need some time off to get myself back on track.
This can be triggered by various things, such as;
Ilness can’t be helped. And if i’m unwell alot, then it can mean that i’m stressed in some way and it’s comprising my immune system. The two do seem to correlate most often.
So if i’ve been having a lot of time off and it’s getting concerning. Be cautious. Because bringing it up as a concern can add another factor to stress and in a lot of cases becomes all-consuming, so much so i crumble and leave the job. Which can be a real shame, especially if it’s a role i really enjoy.
What can be done?
You can mention that i’ve been ill a lot recently and you were wondering if there’s something wrong. Am i experiencing any work related stress and if so, to talk about it to see if there’s anything that can be done. This may mean amended duties, times and/or days i’m working – so be prepared for that, as it does tend to fall into those camps. Sometimes though it’s people. Someone may be causing me stress. And it’s not always easy to talk about that. I’m quite a sensitive person, and try to avoid conflict as much as possible and i don’t want to offend anyone or make working relationships strained. As such, i tend to not speak up about things that may be bothering me about a person. But creating a positive working relationship, one with trust and openess can help.
Sometimes it may just that i’m going through a spot of poor health. Be aware, understanding and patient. It will pass, and making things as easy as possible will pay off in the long run, as an employee, if a employer treats me well, i give back 110% quality of work. Every time.
I’m quite rigid in how i see people, in their set roles. Personal friendships are always kept seperate from work colleagues. When attempts are made in meshing the two together it doesn’t sit well and creates tension in me. I don’t mind chatting with people about our lives. But when it comes to ‘hanging out’ outside of work, i tend to avoid.
Christmas is the worst times, because of work parties. Oh and halloween, because of dressing up. I don’t dress up. You can tell me it’s for charity, but it’s still not going to happen.
I still appreciate being invited, as it makes me feel included. And you never know i may get myself in a position where i’m comfortable with saying yes, i will come along.
– This just applies to group things. One to one ‘drinks’ with someone will always be answered with a no. Always.