Autism Spectrum Australia

Working Class Part 3: Do or Do not Advocate, There Is No Try

  • Posted: 29/03/2016
  • Author: Thomas Kuzma
  • Comments: Loading.. .

Hello Aspies and Neurotypicals, Thomas here again for another episode of Aspire. This past fortnight I’ve been acclimatizing to my new role at Aspect. As Engagement Officer I have a variety of roles that have me going every each way, I mean who doesn’t love adventure!?

Being autistic in the working world has its various amounts of ups and downs. Some of us are really good at searching for work but have a hard time holding a position, for others it’s vice versa. It’s tricky trying to get work on the spectrum, but I have already made two blogs on finding work whilst on the spectrum and going for interviews. Today we are going to find out how to keep that job and advocate for yourself, so that when things get difficult, you don’t end up speechless.

I decided the best course of action would be to consult Vicky Little, from Aspect Capable. With a history of getting people on the spectrum employed makes her perfect to ask about advocating in the workplace.

Self-advocacy in the workplace doesn’t have to mean disclosing your disability. Self-advocacy is about being able to explain to your manager the best way you learn, how you process information, your communication needs and what support you need to do the job as best you can.

 For example, new employees may want to inform their managers that they are visual learners and will benefit from written instructions in conjunction with verbal instructions. It helps to inform managers that they will work best when they have structure within the role and clarity on what’s expected of them. Requesting timetables and task breakdowns will enable the manager to know what structure and information you need to do the job as best you can.

There is a variety of difficulties that people on the spectrum face when they start working somewhere new. Having to settle into a new place/routine and processing loads of new information can make some people on the spectrum anxious.

There are ways to combat these difficulties though, for instance practice and preparation! Get work experience or voluntary work to learn about the workplace and learn the skills required for successful employment in a supportive and relaxed setting.

Don’t forget that receiving support from an employment mentor or job coach can help individuals prepare for work, understanding what to expect from the workplace and building confidence to enter the workplace confidently.

 An employment mentor can also help individuals learn the important skills required for maintaining work, such as communication, keeping organised, managing time and understanding the hidden curriculum of the workplace.

Employers can help those on the spectrum by accommodating sensory sensitivities by being aware of sensory stimuli, such as bright lights and excessively loud noises. They can reduce distractions by providing a desk space that is away from thoroughfare traffic and free from distractions or noise and allowing them to use headphones. You can provide a streamlined workflow with time management support in the form of timetables, reminders and schedules, processes set up clearly with written instructions.

So my employment history wouldn’t be described as grand but interesting. When I started working for Woolworths, I found it hard to advocate for myself. Thankfully at the start I had a service provider who advocated on my behalf, eliminating any confusion. The problem I faced moving forward though was the shifting of managers. New people would come in and I would have to continuously advocate for myself, because the service provider stopped helping.

When I worked for a small filming company I learned that you can’t let your boss build false expectations of who you are. My boss would constantly berate and abuse me and any time I tried to advocate, he would laugh in my face and say not to make up excuses.

Here’s what you need to know about advocating. You should use confidence when talking about your needs. When they see you are able to stand tall and talk confidently about your condition, your boss will have respect for what you are and how you learn.

Let’s use Star Wars for example; we all know everyone loves Star Wars, unless you’re a trekkie… Luke Skywalker’s journey to becoming a Jedi Knight was a tricky one. He learnt only so much from Obi-wan Kenobi, and needed help from Yoda to become a Jedi. Luke could have stayed with Yoda and finished his training, but he was too concerned about his friend’s lives to finish his training. He lost a hand because of his mistakes. In ‘Return of the Jedi’ he faced Vader again, but he was confident; even though he lost his cool, he came out on top, because he was certain of who he and Darth Vader were.

See when we are in the work place, we face a variety of trials, and if we aren’t confident and focused in who we are, then how are we going to get any work done? This is why we need to advocate, so then others have understanding for who we are.

Starting work in a new location is always rough; you have to understand what’s expected from that workplace, what the people are like and how to get by without melting down. There are ways to make the transition easier however like having a mentor or a service provider advocate for you. Remember with advocating you don’t have to say you have autism, it’s just saying what your learning styles are and what’s the best way for you to cope.

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Working Class Part 3: Do or Do not Advocate, There Is No Try