#NDEAM: How Work Made Me Improve My Social Skills

As we move into the second week of National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month, I am starting to be more grateful for my employment opportunity that was provided to me with no questions asked 11 and a half years ago. At that time, I vaguely knew what the job entailed or what I would be doing, however I knew I could disappoint the party that sought me, therefore I made a commitment to take the job.

As such, little did I know that the job required at the time alot of cold asking to complete surveys This became a challenge in the beginning and for several years I would avoid going to work because I feared just asking someone to do a survey because of the fear of rejection I may get in return of my unwanted company during a time that they may not want to be seen or be there. As the years went on and the duties of the job were better modified due to my employer understanding my diagnosis, these opportunities were made limited. However, It was discovered that I did better with a phone survey rather than one in person in some instances.

Another great thing about being on a team like environment is that it wasn’t a competition to see who got the most surveys, which many think. Likewise we shared the load and complemented each other when a survey was completed because the task of completing a survey can be thankless or it can be a time of sharing your relation to the mental health community. Being able to do this helped me be able to share my experiences as appropriate and sometimes give parents like mine that have been through the mill that there could be one day in their child’s future that they could have a better life.

As the years went on, I continued to build on my social skills and took on more tasks at my employment. Doing this made me more aware of social construct and some of the typical behaviors of office politics and why it is not good to become involved in them. Sometimes whenever there is not understanding how someone such as myself operates it can cause tension and lead to termination of employment, a common cause for so many autistics because of their inability to understand social construct or get office politics. I simply choose to stay out of it because there is a time and a place for social interactions and while some do blossom in the workplace, in my workplace given the dynamics, it would be very unlikely that would occur. I have accepted it as such and can work independently and keep to myself oftentimes.

As the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic has taken a blow to the employment sector, I was no exception to this regard. While I did have some time off before the pandemic shut down the country due to some issues with my last home, I was set to return to the office the day it got shut down. As with everyone, there was a great deal of uncertainty as it was initially thought that people would remain home for just two weeks. When this was not the case, I was asked about taking a voluntary layoff. Fortunately that did not occur, rather my hours were reduced in half.

While I didn;t look at it as a grateful opportunity then, I count my blessings that I got to keep my employment during the stay at home period. For the majority of that lockdown period, I was the only member of my day program to be working, although others gradually returned and later I did switch from working remotely back to the office. Although last Christmas there was a period where we were remote again, but hours were not changed, I was still lucky to have my job as I could have easily been disposed of.

Having that time off, then working remotely taught me the value of being autistic and being employed as many were given the opportunities in the manner they were provided to me. Without those at my employer who saw the talents and assets I could provide them willingly, I am proud to report that it has been several years since I have called off work and I only have done it a few times since the return from COVID-19 when I know that I need a break or to have my own space.

There have been times as mental health has waned on and off over the past years where I have considered quitting everything and becoming a homebody. However, as of this writing and what has driven me to write this for the Employment theme this week, my mental health would decline because I wouldn’t have anything to occupy myself. Sometimes you need to count your blessings and be grateful for the opportunities provided to you such as your job because things in many instances of my tenure could produced a really negative result if I hadn’t took time to see how lucky things are.

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