Autism and Work Experience
My autistic work experiences
After trying several placements and volunteering at Mind, I managed to get my first paid job two years after graduation from university, a 6-month contract at the National Union of Students Wales. It was two years after this that I got my diagnosis in 2015 at the age of 25. Throughout my employee journey prior to joining Autistic Minds, the biggest challenge I faced was interviews.
Interviews aren’t easy for anyone. But for someone on the autistic spectrum they can be especially difficult. There are many hidden social cues which can be easy to miss.
What works means to me
Works means more than just work. It means company and social interaction. It means a degree of self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment. As someone who has always found it hard to develop my social skills and make new friends, a work environment offers the perfect chance to develop these somewhere familiar and at my own pace. It also means a safe space to talk about any concerns or issues and ask for help. I feel it has also been important to build my confidence, even though this could still be improved.
When searching for a job I often experienced periods of severe depression and my self-esteem became extremely low. Looking for a job can feel very lonely and isolating.
I believe that the most important feeling that comes with a job is feeling part of a team and a shared objective. During COVID restriction this was even more apparent than usual as we all found ourselves working at home.
We asked our autistic colleagues what work means to them. Andrew Moore, a member of our directory team told us;
“Work for me represents a sense of freedom from an existence of mundanity that comes with unemployment. It offers a place where I can express my skills, attributes and personality for a common goal and get rewarded for my services”
Tom Connett, Sublimation Design and Production Assistant Ambitious Prints feels that
“Being able to work here makes me feel like a valued member of the team, but also the independence and freedom to be myself”
Jonathan, one of our Directory Team Leaders also feels that work provides him with challenges to solve;
“It gives me problems to solve, and I like to be a problem solver. It also gives me a sense of purpose”
Autism in the Workplace
There are many myths regarding social skills and capabilities of those on the autistic spectrum. While we may miss some social cues, with patience, I believe that the accomplishments of Autistic Mind’s autistic staff proves that autistic employees can succeed and become valued employees. Autistic people are not anti-social. Implement the right adjustments in and we can become vocal and an important part of a team.
Not everyone on the spectrum has learning difficulties, yet most are not geniuses. As such, autistic employees shouldn’t be singled out among a wider team. We might need some adjustments that reflect our needs, but this doesn’t make us different to anyone else.
The best job for someone on the autistic spectrum is somewhere that not only goes beyond ticking diversity tick boxes, but one where an autistic person is recognised for their input, not their differences.