How I'm Finding Success At Work as a Person With Asperger's
A lawyer with Asperger’s syndrome recently described his condition as one which causes him to see masks where other people see indicators of emotions, and one which causes him to only hear the words when people are really communicating something else. I can relate to this completely because I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome in 2003.
I have immense difficulty with nonverbal communication. Before my current job, I felt like this would be a barrier to many opportunities, but now I know I can find a place in the world. This is because my job navigates around this immutable characteristic. I work at Blue-J, a company which predominantly employs individuals on the autism spectrum because we have a detail-oriented, often perfectionistic mindset which can lend itself to cleaning. Over 80 percent of Blue-J employees are on the autism spectrum.
A metaphor which I might use to describe my condition is that of a computer which can only receive instructions in a very specific programming language. This computer can execute very complex tasks, but only if those tasks are sent to the computer in the proper language. This describes my thinking perfectly, because every environment in which I have succeeded has been one where I have been given very clear written instructions. Every instruction I was given in college was written, and I did very well there. On the other hand, I did very poorly on a construction job where I was primarily expected to learn through observation.
Working at Blue-J has given me more confidence because it has helped me learn there are positions in the workforce for people of all learning styles.
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Thinkstock photo by Andrey Popov.