My Autism Spectrum Disorder (A personal guide)
The ‘E’ word. Employment.
This is most definitely one of the greatest challenges that Autism in me presents. As must be acknowledged, my intellect is not in question. What makes employment difficult, is my fluctuating capacity. For anyone unfamiliar with Autism generally, this is one of the most persistant negative aspects one on the spectrum may experience. It cannot be cured, it cannot easily (or very effectively) be treated. It can be managed. Fundamental to this, is a low level of avoidable stress. This means compromise. From all parties.
This is absolutely not special treatment. It is established fact that people on the Spectrum experience a higher level of stress than neurotypical people. It should then be plain to see how it follows that stress severely impacts and influences the fluctuating capacities of one on the spectrum. I do have capacity to work; however, in order to keep that capacity stable, I do have very specific needs. I absolutely can not work closely with people. I have given my everything to attempting this previously, and it has driven me to complete breakdown. Every single time that I tried resulted in nervous collapse. This is true of me since preschool through to current. This is not through a lack of trying. I have only recently been officially diagnosed very recently, and suspected Autism for several years. At the point I realised I am Autistic, I understood why I cannot work with people. Because socialising takes so much of my energy, and work takes a significant amount of my energy, and because I have another common symptom of Autism which is insomnia, I am simply not able to replenish my energy enough to keep up with demand. A similar phenomenon can be observed in the higher ranks of giant companies, or in the stock market. They push and push and don’t sleep for as long as their mind and body collapse and then it destroys them.
This is entirely unchangeable (I have this on good authority; Professor Tony Atwood sadly assured me that I will just have to, quote ‘get used to it’) but it is easily remedied provided the appropriate opportunies and assistance. I can simply learn to work from home. I have found it peculiar that when I say this to employment agencies, it is invariably met with a level of skepticism and disdain. I have the internet at home. Most business these days involve the internet. Millions of ordinary people telecommute every day.
Also imperative is to follow my strengths - to paraphrase Temple Grandin, mentor, philanthropist, inventor, author, entrapraneur High Functioning Autistic. She is a globally renowned expert on Autism (incidentally, there is a movie starring Claire Danes playing her being made) because she knows what she’s talking about. To sum up a large part of what she says is essential for an Autistic person to succeed in employment, and even flourish, is to follow your strengths. Anything else will just take too much energy and the person won’t be able to keep it up.
This does not require outrageous compromise from anyone, only a little flexibility and understanding of the situation. I am a talented artist. I see patterns in everything. In employment terms: patterns are my friend. This manifests in an ability to, with absolute ease, construct a moderately complex item, such as fashionable light blocking curtains. Thematic doonah covers and bed sets to standard sizing. My mind works in the details, in specifics - I can find the niches easily. Patterns again; I am adept at reading the rythm of markets. At the moment, I could craft somewhat frivolous items. Hand crafted and expensive is the market in this financial climate. I also have designs for practical, sturdy yet still beautiful items in drier times. I am endeavouring to start a business within the next few years, currently I am actively preparing myself. It is slow, but consistant progress. I am in the process of compiling a portfolio, and taking steps to move from paper designs, to practical. I am optimistic. Given support, and with concessions made to my weaknesses, I am certain that I can follow my strengths into a successful - and tax paying - future.