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asperger's syndrome information and features

         

Education Employment Sleep Diet Clothes Family Relationships Independence

Introduction

Employment Culture

Selling Yourself

Disclosure

Sensory Problems

Communication

Help Finding Work

Work Survey

Conclusion

Introduction

Do we work or don't we? On the one hand, most people with Asperger syndrome are at least as physically and mentally capable of working as anyone else, but on the other hand this is not always enough. Many things stand in the way of satisfying and successful employment.

I'd like to begin this section with the following blooper from my early employment history... a good example of what not to say to your new boss I think...

Manager: So, how are you settling in? Is everything going OK?

Me: Yes, everything's fine. I'm really enjoying it.

Manager: Good. That's what I like to hear.

Me: I know. That's why I said it.

I think the reason why you get people of comparative intelligence and ability with Asperger syndrome, some of whom are able to work and some of whom are not, comes down to an individuals circumstances. Some people are lucky enough to find jobs where they are able to more or less be themselves, but if you don't then you don't have a lot of choice but to make as much effort as possible to fit in, act like other people, and try to do the same things as they can do in the same way. Putting in that sort of effort everyday requires varying levels of concentration and effort depending on the individual and the situation, but while some are able to stoically endure the pressure and tension, others, through no fault of their own, cannot. Even those that seem to cope at first may only be able to maintain it for varying lengths of time... reports of stress and breakdown are not uncommon.

To be a person of normal intelligence and ability and yet held back by such subtle and trivial differences can be both frustrating and humiliating, yet I am certain that all it takes is a subtle change in workplace attitudes for far more of us to be accommodated.

Employment Culture

Many job adverts will ask for 'excellent interpersonal /communication skills' and a 'flexible / adaptable attitude'. The very nature of Asperger Syndrome is that these things can be difficult to deliver under certain circumstances. Of course, everyone is an individual, and some are more capable at coping with these demands than others.

Other little things like compromising quality for quantity, taking criticism without getting upset, and not always being able to do things the way you want to, might also be stumbling blocks for some.

It very much depends on the nature of the work and the people you are expected to work with. Structure, routine, and familiarity are important, and it is important that areas of responsibility and what is expected are clearly defined.

Don't just think of the practical stuff though, think of the unspoken social stuff too. Most people will go into a new job and will be able to sum up the social hierarchy pretty quickly and will watch others to see how they are expected to behave, but a person with Asperger syndrome will probably have all their attention devoted to making sense of their environment and the work they are going to be asked to do.

Selling Yourself

Applying for a job is a ritual. Success depends on a knowledge of the unwritten social rules of the process, right from responding to an advert or writing a CV or letter, to filling in an application form or doing an interview. Giving the right answers the right way, getting your body language right... it sounds so simple, but it is not. It can be learnt, but applying that knowledge can still be a hit and miss procedure. This is an area where most people with Asperger syndrome would benefit form information and support, but most of all employers themselves need to be educated to see our potential beyond the superficiality of the interview procedure. after all, they should be awarding people jobs based on skill and merit, not awarding people Oscars for best performance under intense scrutiny and pressure.

Disclosure

Only 1 in 3 visitors to this site surveyed have told their employer that they are on the autistic spectrum.

It is against the law for people to be discriminated against because of a disability in the UK, but discrimination can be difficult to prove.

You do not have to disclose to your employer if you do not want to, and it is certainly something you should consider carefully before doing. Ask yourself what you would ask your employer to change or do differently... if there is nothing then it might not be worth it.

It is also worth considering that telling people you have Asperger syndrome can lower their expectations of you, which has obvious advantages, but also has the potential to hold you back in some circumstances.

If you are applying for a new job and do not disclose at the time then if you later request changes be made to accommodate your needs it can be very difficult.

If you are having difficulty with disclosure then you could contact the NAS for advice and information on how to raise the subject with an employer and how best to explain it.

If you think you have been discriminated against then you should contact The Disability Rights Commission.

Sensory Problems

Some working environments might not be suitable for people who have sensory integration problems.

Before I knew about this I never used to know what caused the overload I used to experience. Once when I was working in a busy shop at Christmas I became very overloaded and couldn't even move or speak. My boss thought I was drunk and wouldn't believe me afterwards that I hadn't been drinking alcohol. I had no way to explain why I had got that way. I had no way of knowing it would happen. The blasting music, flashing lights, pushing my way through noisy crowds of people all shouting for my attention... I did not know back then that I was less able to handle that than other people. Also, I once had a job in the textiles department of another shop and I would have to get fabric off roles in the warehouse sometimes. The fabric used to smell very musty... I found it overpowering like it was going to make me vomit. No one else could even detect the smell. They all thought I was making it up and trying to get out of doing the work.

Communication

Many jobs involve effectively communicating with both colleagues and customers.

It is tempting to assume that jobs that involve contact with the public are less suitable for people with Asperger syndrome, but this is not necessarily the case. There are some types of communication for which we are better suited... following rules, being accurate, being knowledgeable about your subject matter, your face and voice not betraying your emotions, but these are only useful in a professional context not in a social one.

Social communication can be, as you would expect, a big obstacle at work...coping with social bonding rituals like sarcastic banter and teasing, the need to network and develop rapport with colleagues, the pressure to perform well and impress at out of work social activities, handling bullies and exploiters,  and projecting an image of competence and intelligence... trying to work and cope with all that at the same time... It's like doing the same job as the person next to you but blindfolded with an invisible blindfold and with your hands tied behind your back with invisible rope.

Help Finding Work

In the UK, if you are claiming disability benefits then there are many agencies that exist to help you get into work.

If you are claiming ordinary unemployment benefits you may be able to see a disability employment advisor at your job centre in conjunction with ordinary job seeking assistance.

If you are already in employment, but are seeking new work more suited to you or consider yourself underemployed, there is very little help or support available to you. Organisations I have approached have advised me that people already in employment can only qualify to benefit from their services if they are sacked or threatened with the sack because they have Asperger syndrome, under which circumstances they will in the first instance only try to reconcile you with your existing employer anyway.

Auties.org
Prospects
Remploy
Shaw Trust
Jobcentre Plus
New Deal
Mission Possible

Work Survey

If you are over 16 years old and on the autistic spectrum then you are invited to complete the following survey about your employment experiences.

Click here to Complete the Work Survey

Results so far are as follows:

Conclusion

The ideal is that all people with Asperger's could be self sufficient and live independent lives supporting themselves with suitable and satisfying employment. The reality is that a lot more needs to be done before that is an achievable goal for many.

Everyone is an individual. People with Asperger's should be judged as individuals just like anybody else... on their own personalities, talents and abilities.

We have many strengths and gifts. There are people with Asperger's who hold down good jobs and enjoy their work. Some of us though still need help to sell ourselves, assistance in finding a suitable place to work, and understanding from those we work with, that we do not currently have.

Further reading available from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk 

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