Being autistic, I have worked in many capacities at most points since I was 18 years old. At some intervals prior, I was volunteering in my community. My parents instilled being autistic was not an excuse to be a couch potato. I needed to do something in my life, no matter if it was only part-time, I was not to be stagnant in the house or be attracted to the computer full-time.
I worked a job in high school as part of an employment program. Then after high school, I began attending the day program I attend today while being in and out of vocational evaluation and training for the next few years, I knew I didn’t want to go back after graduation from the trade school. However after a few months of being a couch potato made me realize how much the day program could help me and that I needed it more than not, so I headed back.
While I did return to some of their job training programs over the next few years and later getting the job I now have for over 11 years. I didn’t really want to work, or I didn’t think that it would be going on as it has been. However, my present employment opened more doors to have a continual voice in the mental health community and speak for the needs of all. Having a job that makes me a person getting feedback from the members of the HealthChoices (Medicaid) system and giving valuable feedback that wouldn’t be otherwise attained in a manner of improving services that are much needed for improvement, especially in pandemic times has in a way made me feel good.
Being employed has made me see how much people look to me for my skills and knowledge in subjects that I have learned. I am given the opportunity to learn more about the system not only from an employment standpoint, but with the evolution of video-conferencing tools such as Zoom, the opportunities to participate in things that I wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to do, has truly been a blessing for me.
While it took a great deal of time for me to build up the confidence that I have today, I do realize that many autistics are not given the opportunity to grow like I have. I have to admit I at times wondered whether I would just give up on working and just return to the couch or the computer. However, I realize that being independent I need to be out and about as much as possible so I do not isolate or have drawn-out symptoms of relapse. I also realize that too much of one thing isn’t a great thing either, like two days solid of something isn’t the best. COVID has taught me that it is OK to break things up to best suit my needs for mental wellness. It may not be what those around me want or need, but given the current climate of things, it is what works for me right now. Having large doses of one thing can be detrimental to my mental health where I result in shutdown and begin to deeply isolate and eventually relapse.
Employment for autistics has evolved so greatly over the past few years. The ability to telecommunicate has helped that effort greatly especially with barriers to accessing employment that are still in existence today. The shutdown of COVID has taught us that autistics thrive in their home environments because of not having to break down the barriers or fight the social nuances that are unknown to them in the office setting. We don’t want to work from home because we are lazy, we work better from home because we can feel more at ease than in the office setting. We don’t have to mask and then come home and do all that unwinding from masking all day, We are valuable employees, this is my example. There are many other examples of why hiring an autistic person is not only beneficial to your organization but also their well-being as well. Please don’t consider it as meeting a quota but rather as helping someone out.