AUTISTIC NICK IS INVITED ONTO A PODCAST
So, this week something very exciting happened to me. I got an email from some Occupational Therapy students at the University of Queensland. It should be noted that this is a university project, & they are not speaking on behalf of the university.
This is there email
I’m a final year Occupational Therapy student at the University of Queensland, and along with my 3 colleagues, we’re doing a social change advocacy project (OCTY7830) where we need to raise awareness about an important issue affecting people in our society. Our project is about advocating for the creation of inclusive workplaces where people on the autism spectrum can participate in meaningful employment of their choice without undue environmental barriers (physical, social, sensory, attitudinal). We hope to raise awareness of this occupational injustice in our community affecting the meaningful employment of people on the autism spectrum specifically by targeting our strategies to current employers and employees.
Our motivation for this project was based (among other things) on your ABC News article titled “For people with Autism like Nick McAllister, one of the biggest challenges is finding a job.” Ideally we’d love to do it all (i.e. also focus on the inequitable hiring processes where people on the spectrum are missing out on jobs because they don’t present their best self in a job interview situation), however, we are trying to keep our focus where we feel we can make a difference with our current constraints (i.e. COVID, time constraints) and just focus on the workplace environment. This is an important issue as research shows that many people on the spectrum move between jobs frequently, such a practice that likely reduces their job prospects creating unemployment, underemployment and malemployment. We are hoping that by increasing employer (and employee) awareness of simple things they can do at work to improve the environment this will result in happier employees who remain in suitable jobs
So, that being said, we are hoping to collaborate with you to enrich our outcomes with this project and create sustainable change. We are thinking this would involve a 10-20-minute interview over zoom where we discuss your thoughts around inclusive workplaces. It would involve the following 4 questions (see below) and we would hope to record your audio ONLY so it can be used in our podcast series that we make available on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AutismFriendlyWorkplaces/.
The 4 questions:
Q1 What has been your experience with finding and maintaining suitable work?
Q2 What are some of the challenges that you have faced at work and how did you overcome these?
Q3 What are the strengths that you feel you bring to the workforce?
Q4 If workplaces were supportive of people on the Autism spectrum, what would that look like?
Sorry for the long email and thanks in advance for your consideration.
Look forward to hearing from you,
Here below are my answers
Q1. What has been your experience with finding and maintaining suitable work?
My experiences of finding and maintaining suitable work hasn’t been the greatest of experiences for me. To date I have been with six different DES providers (Disability Employment Agencies) I have felt that each one lacked the knowledge and training to best support me and my Autism. They did not fully understand the complexities around living with Autism and what support Autistic people need from both their DES provider when looking for work. Every DES provider has suggested that we use what they call reverse marketing which is where they’ll present me to potential employers and say “This is Nick, he has Autism do you have any suitable positions that he can apply for” which doesn’t highlight my abilities and scares those potential employers off by highlighting my disability. I find this to be discriminative and soul destroying as this only provokes a negative response from the employer.
Q2. What are some of the challenges that you have faced at work and how did you overcome these?
For me and I am ashamed to say this, but I hid my Autism and I was afraid that I would be fired, or they would demote me to do simple menial tasks. I had to find ways to adapt the tasks that I was meant to carry out every time that I was on shift at my last job which was at a cinema. I would grab a pen and piece of paper and make myself a check list of what I needed to do before we opened and what I needed to do during my shift.
Q3. What are the strengths that you feel you bring to the workforce?
I’m reliable and trustworthy, I have a great attention to detail, and I am highly focused, which means that I work hard on a project until it is completed without getting easily distracted.
Q4. If workplaces were supportive of people on the Autism spectrum, what would that look like?
People with Autism offer a huge amount of untapped potential for employers and much can be done to improve the current system.
I also think job interviews have limited value in telling you if someone is right for a job.
The traditional job interview only really tells you, in a very short timeframe, about someone’s capacity to communicate in what is often a very stressful environment.
It is not conducive for those who may not have the “soft skills” but have significant practical skills to offer in other areas.
Instead, work trials and practical assessments are great examples of ways to assess Autistic applicants, giving people the chance to show off their skill sets in a much less stressful environment.
For organisations and employers, more training on Autism to all staff so they understand the practicalities of working with Autistic people is a great investment in a diverse and inclusive workplace environment.
For the Autistic employee, clear instructions and having tasks split into manageable chunks can be really helpful.
Options for training and coaching on how to interact in a working environment helps build confidence and improve social interaction — an area of difficulty for many people with autism.
Lastly, my message to employers is this: keep an open mind, see past the disability and embrace the diversity and immense potential that is in front of you.
In preparation for this I created a separate word document with there questions and set about answering them. On the day that we recorded this I was very nervous, but I was glad that I was prepared, and they put me at ease and my nerves slowly disappeared.
The podcast should be posted early next week, and I’ll post the link to that on the Autistic Nick Facebook page.
I would like to thank Marlee and her colleagues for reaching out and inviting me onto their podcast to discuss my thoughts on Autism and Employment.
Here is the link to listen to me on the Autism Friendly Workplace Podcast https://www.spreaker.com/user/13121044/episode2-nick-autisticnickblog
CARRY ON THE CONVERSATION
Thank you for reading and I will see you next time for more thoughts from across the spectrum.