Autism Employment Forum

I have been thinking recently about the job experiences I have had as a person with autism in the workplace. There were a lot of things I didn’t understand that would have been helpful to know back then.

So I started researching support for working adults with autism. There isn’t really anything online. There are links to sites that will set you up with a job coach or employment specialist, and there are a lot of links about hiring someone with autism. But what if you have a stable job as a person on the autism spectrum? Or what if you are fully capable of finding your own job, but this is your first job and you have no idea what your rights are or what to do in certain situations? Where do you learn the things that no one really tells you about working and having/ keeping a job?

I am contemplating making a forum for working adults with autism, or for someone between jobs, or just entering the job field. I’ll answer questions I’ve had and initiate discussions about general employment practices or questions.

It will be a place where we can address topics such as: how do I know if I need accommodations? If I do need accommodations, how do I access them? Where can I go to get help? What are my rights? What do I do when I need a break but management isn’t readily available? Should I tell people I have autism? How do I quit my job? How do I ask for a raise? How do I ask for time off? How do I learn the rules and policies so I don’t get in trouble for breaking them? What can I do if I get in trouble with my supervisor or manager?

But before I go through the trouble of making this forum or discussion group, I need to know if there is interest in such a group, and if there is interest, I need help spreading the word.

That’s where you come in. If you would be interested, like or comment on this post. If you know someone that may be interested, share this post. If you have any input or suggestions, let me know.

If there is sufficient interest, I’ll get started on making a group like this. Thank you for your help!

When Someone Understands

My entire life I have dealt with not being okay. There are different reasons why I might not be okay- maybe it is too loud or too bright or too hot or there are too many people or there is too much going on or I am hungry or tired or anxious or just not okay for some other reason. Sometimes I do a pretty good job of getting myself to become okay again; other times not so much. I have learned over the years that there are times I simply cannot handle a situation in a positive way because of how I feel. I have also learned to find a way to escape when I feel this way so that I won’t do something I would regret. But, until recently, I was generally alone in figuring out how to deal with all this.

A few days ago I was at a family event that was overwhelming for me. I felt crowded and hungry and the noises around me seemed extra loud. I went to a chair in the corner of the room and tried to pretend like I was okay. I didn’t really expect anyone to notice or do anything. I was just trying to disappear into my head. But, my sister did notice. She asked if I was okay and if I needed to go to a quiet place to be alone for a while. She and her husband hugged me and told me that it was okay that I was having a hard time. They showed me where I could go to get away from everything for a bit, and while I was away trying to calm myself, my sister made me food and brought it to me.

It felt so amazing that I cried. I cried because people are starting to understand. They are starting to realize when I’m overwhelmed and need a break, and they are helping me. When someone understands it changes everything. It is easier to become okay again when others don’t expect you to be okay in the moment. If they get upset with you or frustrated or scared or react in a way that makes you feel abnormal, it invalidates your feelings. You get upset with yourself because you should not react in that way, you should be able to control yourself, you should not be overwhelmed by the situation.

I feel like I have pretty good self control. I can generally hold in a meltdown until I get to a place where I am alone. I can generally calm myself down enough to get to another room before I get overly upset about a situation. It is hard though. It is hard once you are not okay to do everything on your own to become okay. It is hard to be alone, yet that is often how we believe we must deal with how we feel.

Over the past few weeks, I have had a lot of times when I was not okay. But I have been amazed at the positive, helpful responses I have received in these times. Not everyone has responded positively, but a few people have let me be not okay with them for a few minutes so that I could get to a point of being okay again. It has helped me to become okay so much faster and be able to still participate because I didn’t have to leave before I really wanted to go. Maybe it is not always that easy. Maybe sometimes other people can’t really do anything to help, but if someone can understand, if they can let you know that it is okay to not be okay, that can change everything.

 

Voices of Special Needs Blog Hop

Welcome to Voices of Special Needs Blog Hop — a monthly gathering of posts from special needs bloggers hosted by The Sensory Spectrum and The Jenny Evolution. Click on the links below to read stories from other bloggers about having a special needs kiddo — from Sensory Processing Disorder to ADHD, from Autism to Dyslexia! Want to join in on next month’s Voices of Special Needs Hop? Click here!

Trusting Someone with Your Anxiety

There are some people that you can just trust, that you know won’t hurt you, that you know won’t make you feel bad about yourself. My best friend is one of those people for me. It has taken me a long time to trust her, but she has patiently been there through it all.

The other day I was hanging out with her and realized that I was getting to the point of anxiety where I would either freak out or shut down. So I did what I always do and tried to escape as soon as possible. Of course, you can’t just leave without an explanation and because she’s my best friend, I told her the truth. Instead of just letting me go, she asked what would help. By the time I tried explaining everything, I couldn’t handle things anymore. I shut down and then freaked out and then shut down again, but it helped. I got it out of my system and could hang out again.

And she was totally understanding and didn’t make me feel bad about what happened or make me explain why I felt that way. She just hugged me and listened and let me still spend time with her afterwards.

I’m not sure what my point to this is, other than to just trust someone. Let someone know what you’re going through. Let someone know all of you, even the parts you don’t like. Maybe they will be more understanding than you would think. Maybe you will find someone who loves you anyway. And maybe then, you can heal from all the hurt and brokenness, from all the voices in your head that say you are not good enough and you are a freak and no one will ever love you. Maybe then, you can be whole.

I hope you find that someday. I hope you find someone that loves you and would do everything to not hurt you. I hope you find someone to trust with the hard things. I’m still working on becoming whole. I’m still working on the healing and recovery process, but with someone I can trust, with someone that loves me and doesn’t hurt me, I have hope that I will get there someday. I will get better. I can be whole. And maybe, just maybe, I deserve that.

Extrovert with Social Anxiety

I have come to a point in my life where I can start trying to understand my thoughts and why I have some of those thoughts. I am starting to come to terms with different mental models and philosophies that I hold. I know that a lot of my thoughts come from past experiences, and I know that a lot of those thoughts are not really true. The problem is that though I understand these things on an intellectual level, they have not been fully processed mentally and emotionally yet.

One of the most eye opening realizations that I have had in this process has been that I am an extrovert with social anxiety. I absolutely love people. I need people. I need to be around people, lots of people, tons of people. If I am not around someone or talking to someone or messaging someone, the majority of the time I go crazy. I just really need people. On the other hand, I hate people. I hate crowds. I hate noise. I hate people being everywhere all the time and not being able to breathe because there are so many people. I love spending time with people and being invited to hang out or go to an event or have dinner with someone, but I also totally freak out. Sometimes I don’t go, or I go and sit outside and then leave without going in, or I go and stay for a couple minutes and then sneak out, or I go and stay for longer than I am comfortable until I get to the point where I can’t hold in all of the anxiety and I rush out as fast as I can before I can’t hold it together anymore.

My best friend is getting married tomorrow. I have been excited to go to her wedding for months. I have been ecstatic to see her, but I knew it would be hard for me. I know that crowds and noise and people are hard, but I forget about that sometimes. I forget just how hard it is to stay sane with all of my anxiety in social situations. Tonight was hard. The last week has been hard. The last few months have been hard. But tonight, I didn’t want to go anymore. I don’t want to go to my best friend’s wedding reception because the anxiety has gotten to the point where I feel like I’m going to break all the time. She gets it because she’s my best friend, but other people don’t understand or even try to understand sometimes. Of course, I’ll go. I just don’t know when or for how long or how I’ll react or what I will do.

But having social anxiety means that there’s always a tension when you are around people. It’s like having a spring inside of you that gets squeezed the longer you are with people until it finally pops out. And being an extrovert means that once you finally are alone and don’t have to worry about everyone around you, you fall into a bitter loneliness that you just can’t get rid of. So you do this over and over again. You get squeezed until you’re about to snap because you desperately want to be around people and then you retreat until the loneliness is so thick that you can’t bear to be alone. So you go back to the anxiety and then back to the loneliness and back to the anxiety and back to the loneliness.

And you wonder if you’re just killing yourself slowly or if you should just consign yourself to loneliness because trying to be around people is so ridiculously hard. And maybe it is, and maybe you should just stop trying, but… there’s that other voice that says, “maybe this time will be different. Maybe this time it won’t be so bad. Maybe this time you’ll be okay.” And maybe you will be okay; maybe this will all end. And if not, maybe it will be worth it anyway.

Don’t Look Up to Me

Don’t look up to me.
You think I’m strong for talking about mental illness?
The way I get away with not talking to anyone about what I go through is by telling everyone what I go through. I use this blog as a shield to keep me from having to really trust anyone.

Don’t look up to me.
You think I don’t get angry?
The only reason I don’t get as angry anymore is because I’ve consigned myself to bad days and lost promises and disappointing circumstances.

Don’t look up to me.
You think I am strong in my faith?
My faith is only strong because I need it so badly. I couldn’t find a reason to life if I didn’t believe in something better.

Don’t look up to me.
You think I’m smart?
I was born with above average intelligence, but below average social skills. Believe me, you don’t want to be trapped in your own body.

Don’t look up to me.
You think I have a way with words?
I can only form a sentence after much thought and consideration. It’s not a talent, it’s a deliberation.

Don’t look up to me.
You think I’m kind?
Sometimes I feel like I’m only kind for selfish reasons.

Don’t look up to me.
Mostly just because I am only me.

Who Am I?

I tried so hard and gave so much that I lost myself by giving myself away.
So I looked at everything I’ve done,
And I found myself again.

I am love and affection.
I am kind words and handwritten notes and small acts of kindness.

I am loyalty.
I am the refusal to gossip about you, the defense of your innocence, the friend when you need to talk.

I am honesty.
I am the dollar back in extra change, the wallet returned to its rightful owner, the locking of a cabinet that’s left unattended.

I am dependability.
I am the $5 when you forgot your wallet, the volunteer when you’re looking for more help, the willingness to step in when someone can’t do their assignment.

I am service.
I am the bowl of soup when you’re sick, the ride when you need a lift, the extra hand when you’re moving apartments.

I am forgiveness.
I am the hug after I hated you, the second chance when you lost my trust, the friendship even after you hurt me.

I am responsibility.
I am the acceptance of blame when I could have done something different, the solution to a problem that you didn’t ask me to solve, the completion of chores that need to be done around the house.

I am gratitude.
I am the sincere thank you after you worked hard, the card for the little things I notice you do, the flower on your porch to show I appreciate you.

I am patience.
I am the wait until you’re ready to talk, the consistent friend until you feel better, the perseverance when you have been struggling for a long time.

I am spirituality. I am the comment in church, the testimony that strengthens yours, the prayer for you when you are struggling.

I am friendliness.
I am the smile when you pass by, the hello when we make eye contact, the help when you’re looking for something.

I am caring concern.
I am the inquiry about your health, the genuine interest in your family’s wellbeing, the persistent nudging for you to get the help you need.

In the end, maybe it is all the little things I have done that make me.

So I find myself by looking at who I have been to everyone else.

Forgive Yourself

I think the hardest thing for me is to forgive myself for the things that are not my fault- to forgive myself for being different, to forgive myself for not being able to make friends easily, to forgive myself for everything I want in life that I just can’t do right now.

We have to learn to forgive ourselves for the bad things that happened to us, for the things we wish we had control over or we wish we were stronger to be able to stop from happening. I have to forgive myself for being so lonely, for not making the friends I wanted, or for not reaching out or knowing how to talk to the friends I did have. I have to forgive myself for the times people took advantage of me or made fun of me or hurt me. I have to forgive myself for being me.

I have hated myself for my disabilities, for my mental illness, for my speech impediment. I hate myself the most for the things I have no control over.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we tear ourselves down for the things we cannot do?

If you were raped, you couldn’t have stopped it. If you were abused or bullied, you couldn’t have ended it sooner. If you have been lonely and friendless, you couldn’t have made friends any faster. Because if you could have done any of these things, you would have. No one likes to be hurt. No one wants to be lonely. No one wants to be an outcast or to feel like others don’t understand.

Forgive yourself for the things that are not your fault. Forgive yourself for the things you hate about yourself. Forgive yourself for everything that hurt you. Maybe then we can find the healing we need to love ourselves.

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