8 Things I Want My Employer to Know About My Autism and Me
I’m so thankful to have a full-time job. It’s the best job in the world, I think. I get paid to watch basketball and travel. Although the people I work with are amazing, there are a few things I want them to know.
1. I want to be pushed.
I appreciate the respect you have for me when you tell me I don’t have to go to meetings, but after a year on the job, I think I need to go.
2. I don’t want you to walk on eggshells.
Again, I appreciate the respect you have for me when you worry about things you ask of me, but I’m a professional. I’m not a charity case. You pay me to provide a service. Please expect and accept nothing but my best.
3. I have not reached my ceiling.
I’m 25 and I have a job that some people work their entire career to have. But I’m not satisfied. I don’t want to be here for the rest of my life. I want to continue to learn and improve, to move on, to continue doing things that people thought I’d never do.
4. I still like to be invited to lunches and meetings.
We all know that I’m likely to turn it down, but an invitation means so much to me. Whether you’re going to lunch or having a meeting, being invited means that I’m included, that you thought of me. I have a tendency to perseverate on things like not being invited. I think that means you don’t want me there. I know, in reality, you’re being respectful of what you think my wishes are, but being able to make decisions for myself is very empowering.
5. Be direct.
If you want something, tell me what you want. Phrases such as “I wish someone would…” are not helpful. Instead, say, “I want you to [insert task here] so that [insert purpose here].” If something I have done is incorrect or you wish I had done something differently, please tell me.
My brain is the worst kind of DVR. There’s no pause and there’s no delete. I replay every interaction, every conversation, every comment, everything over and over and over and over. So, regardless of whether something went wrong or went well, I’ve likely been replaying the occasion over and over in my head all day trying to figure out what happened exactly. I want to trust you will tell me when I mess up, so I can learn and do it differently in the future. And when I do it well, I can do it again.
6. I want to learn from you.
There are a lot of things in this area I am not good at but I want/need to improve on. One great way for me to improve is to watch you. What you do requires such a high level of interpersonal skills, eye contact, conversations, nonverbal communication. These are things that don’t come naturally to me. I wish I could shadow you, listen to your phone calls, follow you on tours — learn how you do what you do. You are so good at it. I have future goals and aspirations that require me to improve in these areas.
7. When I need a break, I’ll let you know.
Sometimes, I just need five minutes to bounce or spin in my chair. I need to turn my lights off and be quiet or go for a walk. One thing that I love about you is that when I tell you I want to go for a walk, you are always willing to come, too.
8. Most people with autism don’t get to work with incredible people like you.
You are kind. You show up with random things that you think I might like, like puzzles or Minions. You entertain my likes and my preferences, rather than chide me for acting childish. You are accommodating. You let me stim and chew without making fun of me or getting upset with me. You are so conscientious of how you approach me, of my dislike of being touched. You make sure I go to all my appointments, even though I have to miss work for them. When I ran out of medicine, you didn’t send me away. You asked how to help. You always ask how to help. You are so good to me. You respect me as a professional, and more importantly, as a person.
I’m so thankful. I’m thankful to work with an incredible staff who looks out for each other. In my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined working with such an amazing group of people. As we continue to build a culture and set the standard, I also want to set a standard for myself. I want to be held to the highest standard. I hope these eight things will help you as you learn more about what I want for myself, what I expect for myself and what I want you to expect of me. You treat me so well that I want to be better than you ever thought I could be. I want to be my best for you.
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