My friend Chris Bonello, a fellow public speaker who is on the autism spectrum posted a great quote on his Facebook Page where he discusses an example situation of what the workforce has looked like for him. It said…
“Sorry Steve, we can’t offer you the job. I know you’d be an expert at building houses, but there was this other candidate who was really, really good at talking about building houses.”
This really hit home for me from my personal experiences trying to finding meaningful employment. I remember one of my first internships I ever received. I would be doing a 30-minute interview with Human Resources to decide whether or not I receive the position. I had spent weeks working on mock interviews and communication skills but the entire time I kept thinking to myself, “Wouldn’t it make more sense for me to do a task for my potential employer versus how well I answered questions?”
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I want our society to know that, there are capable and talented people on the spectrum who are able to walk the walk but might have challenges talking the talk. During months like October, which is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, I talk about hiring skilled people with disabilities in the workplace. In those conversations I ask companies not to look at what they can do for an autistic person but what an autistic person can do for their company. In those conversations when I give talks about disability & employment to companies, I like to have someone from Human resources present to discuss things like forging the interview process for a 1-day job tryout to see what a potential employee is capable of when it comes to performance. Also, I appreciate when jobs provide concrete language in their job descriptions.
It’s not only the communication challenges for some but for others like myself who still have some fine motor challenges, it may mean that if I’m wearing a tie in the workplace it might be slightly crooked. As a kid I also couldn’t wear button my shirts or tie my own shoes until I was 11. These challenges which I still have some difficulty today with however have nothing to do with my work performance.
Simply put, autistic people like me just want a chance to succeed.
P.S: I was also inspired to create this image below from another autistic self-advocate’s post here.
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