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Autism and being successful at work

Discussion in 'Education and Employment' started by Heyphelpsy, Feb 17, 2021.

  1. Heyphelpsy

    Heyphelpsy Active Member

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    Hi!! This is my first post! Anyone here had long term success with staying in a career? My work is a very social profession. I've been struggling for 4 years. But this is what I got my degree in so I'm here for the rest of my life. Wondering if anyone has advice for social work environments and if it's possible to be successful and happy. I'd love to hear any work success stories that people want to share. I hope I made this post correctly!
     
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  2. AprilR

    AprilR Well-Known Member

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    Hello and welcome!

    I think i can answer that since i have a degree of law! Although it took me some time to get confidence in my work, i actually really like my field. In fact it became a special interest even.

    In college i had major problems with anxiety/depression and i suspect that also affected my grades. I was sure that i wouldn't be able to work anywhere let alone being a lawyer.
    After i got my degree and permit which in my country isn't hard to get, for a long time i didn't work. Didn't even look for a job since i was sure i couldn't do it.

    Starting my first job, my employer accepted for me to be" somewhat like an intern" so i could learn the job slowly. I have to say both my employer and my coworkers were extremely supportive and understanding people. The biggest obstacle for me was writing legal drafts since putting my thought on paper was difficult for me.

    But, as the people around me were supportive and i saw how lazy and irresponsible some of the lawyers i met were, it somehow gave me confidence.

    When i actually started to prepare legal drafts to my shock people actually praised me. I understood that somehow, my reading comprehension and writing skills were being affected by my depression and anxiety. And when surrounded by supportive and nice people, i relaxed and concentrated way better.

    I've had multiple Jobs until now, from which i quit myself since it was too far away and the last one due to reasons not related to my performance. At my last job, all my coworkers Agreed that i did good work, even my nt cousin who has her own business and is a succesful lawyer approved of my legal drafts.

    So, in the field of law at least and providing you have people who are supportive and the understanding kind, there is no reason you won't be able to succeed.
     
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  3. Nervous Rex

    Nervous Rex High-functioning autistic V.I.P Member

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    I've been at the same job for 20 years, and although I am still just an employee - not a manager or boss of any sort - I'm in a fairly senior position and have the respect of a lot of people at work.

    I'm a programmer and mathematician, and my autism has given me an ability to master anything that is rules and logic based. My success is due 50% to my autistic abilities and 50% to accidentally finding a good career match for my abilities.

    My job isn't a very social job at all. I joke that people give me a problem and put me in a closet, and then I come out when I have it solved.

    The one social thing that I can think of that I do right is to deliberately work on being friendly and cheerful to everyone. It has made a world of difference and gotten me a good reputation.
     
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  4. Magna

    Magna Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    Welcome. I'm making an assumption that you're just beginning your working career and that you're fairly young in age?

    I've been gainfully employed full time for around 30 years. However I've had quite a few different jobs in that time. I've been in my current field for 20 years though.

    Since the title of your thread mentions autism, I assume you're either professionally diagnosed or self-diagnosed?

    Based on what I know know from my work experience, I would recommend being very mindful of any sort of needs you may require to be comfortable in your work environment. This would include sensory related needs.

    If you're professionally diagnosed, then you'll need to decide if you want to disclose your diagnosis to your employer or not. If you're in the U.S., the ADA provides a level of protection and requirements for "reasonable accommodations" you might need to work.

    If you're self-diagnosed, you can easily make your needs known without even mentioning autism since the needs are what they are and the reason for them isn't always material. Examples:

    "Just so everyone knows, I'm very sensitive to fragrances."
    "Sorry, my brain has a hard time processing conversation when there's a lot of background noise."
    "I'm a very literal person, so I might miss some jokes or sarcasm."
    "My thought filter is a bit off. If I say something that offends you, please let me know. It's not intentional."
    "Is it possible for us to get the meeting agenda or topics in advance? I'm very analytical and I do best if I'm able to think about things before doing them or talking about them."

    ^All of the above are examples of common challenges or issues autistic people can face, but all of the above examples are valid regardless of whether or not autism is mentioned.

    Be very aware of any times where you start to feel burned out from your work. That can end up having a cumulative effect on you that NTs don't experience and can lead to "autistic burnout" which is VERY common for autistic people to experience during their work years.

    Good luck!
     
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  5. Heyphelpsy

    Heyphelpsy Active Member

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    Don't know if I'm replying correctly. Sorry if this is wrong!

    I am 4 years into my career, so I'm young I guess. I've already taken 2 medical leaves because I could not cope with the social aspects of my job. Yes, I am diagnosed with autism. I am going back to work on Monday after being on leave for a long time. I'm nervous that everything will just happen again and I'll break down. In preparation for coming back, I told my boss and 2 co workers about my diagnosis. My boss was very supportive. Not sure about my co workers though. I think they feel they are stuck with me but that could just be my negative mindset. I also am asking for work accommodations but the process is taking a long time so they won't be in place Monday. Just worried It will be like last time. Worried people won't understand me. Worried i will not be accepted. Worried I won't be able to handle the stress. Worried it will get spread around to everyone that I have autism. Worried people will think I can't do my job because I have autism. Worried I will not fit in. Worried people will talk behind my back like last time. I'm a ball of nerves. I don't do well with building and maintaining relationships and that's a huge part of my job. I wonder every day if I should give up or if this new start will help. I'm trying my best. Sorry for babbling.


     
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  6. Magna

    Magna Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    Babble away!

    Your boss would get in big trouble disclosing your diagnosis to others without your consent but I don't think your coworkers are legally bound to keeping that information confidential.

    What sort of accommodations did you ask for?

    I admire the fact that you're determined to give your work another try. I think that's a good plan. Sometimes new environments, jobs, etc can be very stressful, but you might find that you're able to adapt over time.

    I'm convinced that autistic people are survivors by nature. From an early age, many of us had no choice but to figure out how to survive in school, socially, in life in general.
     
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  7. Wolfgangus Faldestolius

    Wolfgangus Faldestolius Little notes from an armchair

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    My experience and environment before retirement was similar to April's. My boss, supervisors and colleagues were more supportive than would be average. I had continual near burnout exacerbated by viral illness. My best work was behind the scenes so I was allowed to leave the "public face" to others (an adjustment to the usual "balance" in my nominal job description).

    But I've known acquaintances who had ASC who are successful in public roles: I think it is about harnessing one's very individual talents plus methods to avoid being overwhelmed: they were very methodical in their private lives and came over as authoritative enough to negotiate career issues.
     
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  8. Neonatal RRT

    Neonatal RRT Well-Known Member

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    Over 30 years as a neonatal respiratory therapist.

    Frankly, I've been employed, in some capacity, since I was 9 yrs old. Started out as doing yard work for a group of people, then I worked at my father's auto dealership cleaning cars, then off to college where I worked night security and was a dish washer in the cafeteria, I did a stint as a road construction worker one summer, then to the hospital were I started out as a lab phlebotomist drawing blood samples. I don't think I have ever been unemployed at any time in my life.
     
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  9. Magna

    Magna Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    Another thing I think is worth mentioning. There are things that can be huge issues for us as austics in regard to work environments that NTs would generally regard as non-issues.

    I once quit a job loading semi-trailers for UPS because of the constant smell of diesel exhaust in the air.

    At my current employer there were several coworkers that had scented air fresheners in their offices that were so strong to me that if they'd continued to use them I would have had no choice but to quit.

    It's important for us to identify the actual things that are giving us stress in our jobs and work at reducing or eliminating those things if possible. If certain things are impossible to change, then it's possible a job change might be required.
     
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  10. Thinx

    Thinx Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    Yes I have worked in care and counselling contexts and education throughout my life.

    What's coming through to me is your anxiety, I wonder if it's something to tackle in various ways to lessen it? Meditation and mindfulness, CBT therapy, plenty of rest, exercise and good diet, etc, whatever works best for you.

    It's understandable you are anxious after a long time off work, but it's going to be important to address it in the type of work you are in, or it will be hard to enjoy your job and be effective . You might also try assertiveness training, that can help with anxiety.

    What sort of accommodations do you think will be helpful for you? What were the difficulties you noticed before you went off unwell, and what may help?
     
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  11. Heyphelpsy

    Heyphelpsy Active Member

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    Thank you for the reply back!

    I am asking for a mentor who has knowledge of adults with autism, weekly check ins with a supervisor, and a quiet space for lunch. I'm thinking between a mentor and a supervisor, I will have enough eyes on me that if I get confused or overwhelmed with the social piece, someone will be there to help. Quiet space for lunch so I don't have to be surrounded by people for 30 minutes.

    Thank you for giving me feedback about my plan. I'm very worried but hopeful.

    I agree, that people with autism are survivors:) that makes me feel good and proud, feelings I haven't felt in a while. I think no one in my life knows how hard life is for me, so I found this forum and hope people will understand me more. Thank you for your thoughtful responses.


     
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  12. Heyphelpsy

    Heyphelpsy Active Member

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    Thank you for your reply. Anxiety is a huge issue for me. Something I continuously work on. Before I went out on leave, I did not understand my colleagues. I didn't know what they were thinking or feeling or how my actions might effect them. I had a great deal problem with humor, and this was a very playful work environment. Everyone was always joking, but I didn't understand so was kind of out of the loop. I wasn't able to engage in small talk so people avoided me. People called me angry, unfriendly, stand offish. I was not understanding the social situations. They did not understand me, I did not understand them. So I'm asking for work accommodations of a mentor who understands adults with autism, checkins with a supervisor, and a quiet space for lunch. I have worked really hard on my leave to be a better co worker and understand things socially. I hope the people I work with can do a little work too and try to understand me. I get frustrated because I have to change to fit into their world, and I know I'm going to go back and they will all treat me the same. I am trying really hard, but I bet they are not going to try in return, to just see that I am different and that's ok sometimes.

    Can I ask what education contexts you have worked in?

     
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  13. Heyphelpsy

    Heyphelpsy Active Member

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    "It's important for us to identify the actual things that are giving us stress in our jobs and work at reducing or eliminating those things if possible. If certain things are impossible to change, then it's possible a job change might be required."

    This is very true. Im trying to eliminate or reduce those stresses but I feel I also need understanding from my colleagues, and I don't think I'm going to get that. But I will try this again. Because I do love my job. If a change is required, I will know soon. This is my last try.



     
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  14. VictorR

    VictorR Random Member V.I.P Member

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    Welcome!

    Glad to hear you have a supportive boss whom you're comfortable talking with.

    Personally, I find the field rewarding to work in. I like helping people, and it's only on occasion that I get feedback, since for me, most of the time the clients get what they need and I don't hear from them again, but when the rare one writes or calls back later to give their thanks, it's really nice.

    Something I personally found helpful was establishing work routines, which includes, as one of my first tasks of the day, creating my daily work schedule - which clients I have scheduled, and flex time to contact other clients, service providers, or do paperwork. It takes away the chaos and gives a sense of order, which I find helps reduce anxiety, as otherwise I may freak out and have a meltdown simply not knowing where to start, and feeling utterly overwhelmed.

    One challenge I've had is in establishing boundaries. I've sometimes let my clients push me around too much. One time my boss saw me have a meltdown. I didn't have my diagnosis yet so I couldn't say anything. I got written up for failure to maintain control of the situation. I am getting better at telling clients when they are out of line.
     
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  15. Tom

    Tom Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    I was aware I was quite 'different' but unaware I was on the spectrum when making my career choice. But I had come to the conclusion that I needed to choose a at least partially social work to counter my strong introverted tendency. Too much of either was bad I had discovered.

    I tried a bunch of minor starting jobs, but eventually came back to my special interest in the military. I had learned to mask quite well already and was also very athletic. Being good at sports, just about any sport I tried was a path to acceptance.

    The choice might not seem at first glance to match up well with autisim, but I found it was a good match for me (Air Force). The very set rules and expectations, the established military social code never changed once I learned them. And I could counter the very social times with personal escapes into quiet places or even in my own head. And I found that my performance under very stressful circumstances was not worse but actually better then the NTs around me. In those times my mind seemed to go into analytical-action mode not emotional freeze up.

    So anyway I went 27 years and was successful, until injuries forced me to retire.

    I know I met a few others, or at least strongly believe they were on the spectrum. My son is on the spectrum as well, but like me undiagnosed. A diagnosis would make us illegible to serve in the military and he also wanted a military/aviation career. He served 10 years active duty and now is part time in the Air Guard as avionics maintenance crew working on the Stealth Fighters and sometimes deploying with them. In between he is attending college working on his civilian aviation studies and licenceing.

    So yes it can be done. Yes there will be challenges others do not face - but also things you will be batter at. Keep your eye on the goals and don't let people discourage you and you will ok. Maybe even great. :)
     
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  16. Thinx

    Thinx Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    I worked in Further education with young and mature social care students, and later in Higher education counselling trainings.

    I think it may be worth trying a positive attitude to how others will be on your return, rather than predicting that they won't accept you, as if you predict this, it may be how you interpret things. Whereas if you predict eventual success in getting along with colleagues, that's more likely to help you take steps in interactions and be positive even when people have trouble understanding you.

    It really is completely typical that autism is not widely understood at all in workplaces, so as this is your first workplace you may be thinking this is just happening there, but as yet, how we are and our differences are definitely not well understood, and you can't unfortunately find that in the vast majority of workplaces.

    This leaves us to manage as best we can, sometimes to be an educator of others, or to cope with the relative invisibility of our difference. If this is unacceptable to you, it could be that longer term you could look at self employed options, but I would highly recommend making strong efforts to succeed in fitting in at this stage, in order to gain experience and credentials at work.

    Try thinking of your colleagues as a herd of deer, they shy from you and see you are different, they are uncertain and do not feel they can approach, when they make their amusing deer remarks you do not respond, it seems you do not care much for deer. They retreat and eat some acorns together making steam with their breath in the frosty air.

    Ah here another approaches, Are you feeling better? He asks with a smile. No, not at all, I feel stressed and unwelcome you think. He looms over your desk as if he is trying to grab some leaves from a tempting branch. Thanks, it's good to be back! You say, and try to smile. He nods and you can't think of anything else to say. He wanders away. This happens all week, members of the deer herd wander up, or ask you how you are, are you feeling OK?

    Gradually they see you seem better, you are a quiet one they think. After you feel a bit settled, a week or 2 later, you bring biscuits cakes or sweets or fruit for all, and put them in the rest room, adding a note, I am glad to be back, thanks everyone for welcoming me, I am a quiet person but I really appreciate your acceptance of me. Or something like that...
     
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  17. Nervous Rex

    Nervous Rex High-functioning autistic V.I.P Member

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    That was a fun passage to read!
     
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  18. Wolfgangus Faldestolius

    Wolfgangus Faldestolius Little notes from an armchair

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    { technical error in browser }
     
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  19. lolcatal

    lolcatal Well-Known Member

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    I wish I had something useful to share. I did great at work for eleven years, getting promoted to an important position, but then burned out so badly I had to stop working altogether and will probably never work again. I guess my advice is not to try too hard. That sounds like terrible advice, but if I had been more of a slacker like my coworkers, I might have had a longer career.
     
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  20. N2k12

    N2k12 Active Member

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    Nope. No success here. Im 36. And lost every job i have ever held. Learned to give up. Going on disability. As its so painful to constantly fail.
     
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