Contrary to popular belief, Autistic People want to work, fairly and equally. We oftentimes can show our struggles or deficits more than our talents. Also those with marginal, and other barriers to employment face constant roadblocks to be a contribution to society not as a backstage piece, but one who is seen in the community and is recognized for their efforts.
Everyone, including autistic adults can bring their talents to the table in some realm. However, there are many factors about finding employment that can be extremely difficult for autistics such as myself to face. Traditional tools such as pounding the pavement and face-to-face interviews can become difficult. I continue almost twelve years later to count my blessings to have the job I have and have the opportunities I have in order to maintain it. It hasn’t been easy at times, and sometimes, I just want to give it up because it at times seems to be difficult with life’s challenges, but I fight on because I know that I will never have an opportunity similar to what I have ever again.
I sometimes wish that there was more openness to have more flexibility and openness to jobs in the nature mine is offered. There is such a wide array of people out there with such awesome talent, yet because of systematic fear and reluctant by employers to take that chance, many times after several burned previous attempts, it gives the candidates of a disabled nature who truly want to make a good move and do something to give back to society reluctant to do so.
Now in my years in the mental health field I have heard of some whoppers of sorts of epic fails in the employment sectors of all sorts by disabled workers. What is needed is proper training by parties who “get” all aspects of how people with disabilities can work and what issues they may face as a result of being employed. There are several barriers to employment that individuals with disabilities face on a consistent basis, however, we not only as advocacy community, but that too as individuals in the workforce must do our part to ensure that opportunities for all are offered and that when someone makes a mistake, as long as it is not too detrimental, it can be politely corrected and reenergized into a learning experience.
I have seen the years of the sheltered workshop and subminimum wage in my community go away. I am glad to be in a region where this practice is no longer in existence. However, I feel as if it was taken away from the individuals at a sudden moment when they were given little opportunity to plan for the future, whether that be a community based employment position or possibly a higher level of care, if that is needed. We must understand that not all individuals with disabilities are all cookie-cutter, therefore we must tailor the opportunities to best suit their needs and break down as many barriers to employment that can be done.
Many times, an individual with a disability cannot engage in a full-time work commitment and this must be understood by all in the employment sector. When this is not understood and accepted by employers and individuals show symptoms that affect their mental health, and they need a stay in the psychiatric unit or ultimately results in termination of that employer, this is a disservice to the employer because they were likely aware of their boundaries, but were loyal to their employer or not realizing that it ok to recognize the need to stand up for your rights. Employers must face the fact that an individual, whether their disability is visible or not, should be recognized when they need to be on-point that they need to take care of their mental health is necessary and should be considered over productivity by the employer. It is likely as an individual’s mental health is in a state of decline, the quality of their productivity will diminish as well.
In closing, we must now more than ever be cognizant of the needs of all employees in these challenging times. However, individuals with a known disability sometimes need extra care and the need, although it may not be prevalent at times, should be recognized and honored as much as it possibly can.