On March 10, 2010 I started a new endeavor as a Consumer Satisfaction Team Member. Although I didn’t know it, this job would require me to oftentimes interact with complete strangers. For several years, my work schedule was sporadic at best. I struggled with the days that I had to go to work because anxiety built up continually. Eventually I would become comfortable with my work, it would provide me additional opportunities and now is second nature for me.
I remember when the discussions started at the day program that I didn’t even want to work. However, a family friend that is my supervisor now was adamant to the program director about me joining the team because of my ability to advocate and relate with others and that I met the criteria for the job. So, I started and as time went on, I was nervous, there would be several days where I just couldn’t go to work and perform the job. If I performed the job, I was super nervous, but as time went on and I did it more, like anything I do, I get accustomed to it.
As the years went on, I got the opportunity to be more involved with the team and my employer. For many autistics, this job would become a struggle. However, as the years progressed, I became more attentive to the work I was doing and was enjoying it more and more. Much gratitude has to be given the coworkers and superiors at my place of employment, because without their willingness to learn my struggles and understand my needs, I would not have the job that I would have today.
I was even the award winner one year through the program that manages behavioral health managed care in our and eleven other counties for the progression I have made not only at my job but my life as a whole. When my supervisor read the nomination, she wrote she was reduced to tears and the proudest moment was when I walked on that stage and received that award and gave my many thanks and noted that mental health recovery was possible in each and every person in attendance in their own unique way.
Going to work for autistics such as myself requires that I have to put on my “game face” to get through the day. It means that I have to be able to focus on the tasks that must be completed for that shift. While I do work part time and only a couple of days a week, it is still a challenge all needs need to be checked so I can perform my job well. I have to make sure before I go to the office that I have a lunch so that when the office shuts down for lunch that I have a lunch and that any remainder time that I have after consuming food I can use for any of my needs that I need to address that are not work-related. I also have accommodations for working in the office including movement breaks, a fan for ventilation and the permission to wear headphones, in certain circumstances so that I can focus on my work properly.
Last year, I had the privilege to join many other commrades in the county behavioral health system of receiving recognition for ten years of service. This consists of a plaque and a gift card. While my anniversary is in March, this is not recognized until the summer, however COVID delayed that and was not completed until this winter. I was so glad when I go that plaque because it has been a long-term goal for me to reach, and I did it! I was so happy to join so many coworkers within my own agency where I am employed along with other agencies in the county of joining the ranks.
For autistics that have dreams on working, don’t give up on your dreams. That job will appear, and while you may have one or several roadblocks in being gainfully and proudly employed, you have to be happy with where YOU are at in the employment realm, no one else can define it , YOU have to define it.