10 Things I Wish People Knew About My Autism

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James Kwon Sues Chick-fil-A, Says Company Wouldn't Hire Him Because He Has Autism

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James Kwon, a 25-year-old man on the autism spectrum, who lives in Orland Park, Illinois, is suing Chick-fil-A after being told his autism would prohibit him from succeeding at the restaurant.

Prior to applying for a job at Chick-fil-A in 2014, Kwon participated in a work-study program at Bakers Square – a restaurant chain like Chick-fil-A. As part of his program, Kwon helped clean the restaurant, washing windows and floors, clearing garbage and wiping down tables. After finishing his work-study program, Kwon began working with a job coach to increase his odds of finding employment. Working with his coach, the pair went to Kwon’s local Chick-fil-A in Orland Park, to speak to the branch manager about working at Chick-fil-A.

Kwon and his coach were unable to speak with the branch manager, and so, Kwon’s coach returned later to Chick-fil-A to recommend Kwon for a position. According to the complaint filed by Kwon’s lawyers: “The branch manager responded that Chick-fil-A was not interested in hiring people with disabilities. When the job coach reiterated that she thought James would do a good job, the branch manager stated that people with disabilities would not be able to succeed at Chick-fil-A.”

Based on the branch manager’s comments, Kwon did not complete his application at the Orland Park branch. Now, Kwon is suing Chick-fil-A for violating the Americans With Disabilities Act, which protects Americans with disabilities from discrimination. As part of the ADA, employers cannot discriminate based on disability. Since Kwon illustrated in his previous role that he was capable of working at a restaurant, rejecting his application based on disability is against the law.

The Mighty reached out to Chick-fil-A and has yet to hear back.

Photo credit: Mike Mozart 

h/t Courthouse News

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Why I Struggle Socially as Someone on the Autism Spectrum

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As someone on the autism spectrum, I never used to have issues with self-confidence. In fact, I thought pretty highly of myself for a while. I could talk about my life with ease and not worry about how others saw me. I didn’t care if was “unpopular” or lacked “style.” I enjoyed being me.

Not too long ago, however, something changed inside. I began to learn more about social skills. I began to understand other peoples’ comments about how I looked or acted. The world became this alien planet, where everything I did was judged, and it affected my life. I felt I was growing up.

The issue with understanding these social skills, however, is I still don’t know how to use them. I know talking about politics or religion can be a touchy subject, but I don’t know how to recognize how someone else feels about it. It’s easy to know I should be professional when I’m working — but how do I accomplish that? Is there something I should or shouldn’t say? Something I should or shouldn’t do?

All I know are the basics. Look people in the eyes when you are talking to them. Don’t go into too much detail when a stranger asks how you are doing. Use your manners. Smile and nod.

Just smile and nod, and don’t get in the way.

Oh, and every “general rule” has an exception depending on the situation. So all of those things I’ve learned in the past that I thought I could apply to new situations are pretty much useless.

When I thought I had my life together, everything just changed and seemed to fall apart. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I can understand that social skills are important. The problem is I still don’t really have many. And instead of letting ignorance be bliss, I have an issue with no idea how to solve it. Until I grow a little more, I feel lost in the alien world of social situations.

Image via Thinkstock.

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How Gilmore Girls Taught Me Social Skills

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One day, my friend and I were sitting in her living room, bored, and browsing Netflix for something interesting to watch. Then a particular show caught my eye. I remembered watching it when I was younger, yet still undiagnosed as on the autism spectrum. I enjoyed the unique writing of it at the time. And here it was, ready to watch about 10 years later.

“Have you ever seen ‘Gilmore Girls’?” I asked my friend.

“I love ‘Gilmore Girls’!” she responded, and we began to watch as our childhood memories played once again on the TV.

Less than five minutes into the episode, my friend started commenting on things I didn’t really understand. She would mention how a character was feeling, or that maybe they had said a line in an interesting way. I was so confused. I didn’t notice any of that. All I was interested in was the story and the humor.

So my friend paused it. She told me to look for certain details, like how a character may laugh or where their eyes were focused during the conversation. We watched the scene over again.

When it was through, my friend paused it once more, and I asked my questions about what these things meant. She began to explain their importance. I felt like a new world was opened up. All of these little social details I had missed the first time around became a little bit clearer. So that’s why the guy left the room suddenly — he wasn’t interested in the conversation. No wonder the woman was giggling — she was nervous about her outfit looking strange!

Throughout the series, I found myself learning more and more about these social situations. I learned about how the sense of touch is a powerful thing when you’re in a relationship. I realized how difficult it can be to flirt with someone. We even discussed whether or not it’s appropriate to wear pajamas in public.

As someone on the autism spectrum, “Gilmore Girls” has become more than just a great show to watch. It’s become a perfect and valuable tool for helping me learn some social skills.

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Image via “Gilmore Girls” Facebook page

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Dad Starts Autism Photo Project to Enlighten His Community

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My Christmas Wish as a Person With Autism

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As I sit in front of the crackling fireplace with my beloved husband, I think of all the millions of individuals with autism around the world. The vast majority of them are not as fortunate as I am to have someone in their life who loves them and to love back. Abraham and I were just reminiscing about Christmases past. We both shared how our one big wish was to find that special someone out there with which to love and share our life. We both got our Christmas wish, and there’s no gift greater than this. The overwhelming feeling of peace, comfort, and security brought us to tears.

But I do actually have another Christmas wish. And that is for every person on the autism spectrum to find a love like ours. For that to happen, we all must be accepted in this world. With all my years of wisdom, I still can’t figure out why all neurotypicals can’t seem to accept us. In fact, the way I see it, they truly have it all wrong. Some neurotypical people view us as the inferior ones. But we are the ones who have the ability to accept others who are different. We can accept neuro diversity. We are the ones who don’t bully, harass, nor discriminate others who are different.

Why are those with autism often so hard on themselves for even the slightest social blunder? My advice to my autistic community is to focus on feeling at peace with yourself and enjoying life. I wish the rest of the world would realize that indeed we do have emotions, dreams and desires. We do want to be included, respected, and understood. Have an open mind. Don’t be so judgmental of us just because we don’t act like you. Embrace our different way of being. Be happy that there are people like us in the world.

I’m wishing that 2017 is the year the world learns to accept and embrace those who are different from themselves. We have already done that. You can too.

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Thinkstock photo by a_namenko

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