Saturday, 17 August 2019

Doing a double twisting double tuck when everyone else gets by with a back tuck

This is part 2 of my Finding a job with autism series. For part 1, click here.
This post is difficult to write but I feel it has to be done. For too long, the voices of those with autism have been silent or ignored. This has had an impact on how people with autism exist in this world. Using something that was recently done in gymnastics, I will explain how people with autism have to do a bigger effort than neurotypical people in order to make their way in this world.

Recently, Simone Biles was the first person in the world to do a double twisting double tuck (double double) off the balance beam, which is an amazing achievement.  This could be used as a metaphor for the amount of difficulty people with autism have to do in order to function in this world. On the other hand, neurotypical people can do similar things in a social setting with the amount of difficulty that is needed to jump off or just do a back tucked somersault (back tuck) off the beam. However, the double double looks like a back tuck until the person with autism makes a mistake or a person knows them for an extended period of time and picks up on the differences. But the differences can look a lot worse than a back tuck off the beam.

The first thing that feels like a double double off the beam to me are questionnaires that are used in order to screen candidates for a job. While most people may fake the answers to a certain degree, I have to guess what the potential employer wants as an answer. If I answer the way I want to, employers may not see me as a “team player” and choose to not give me an interview. Even though it can be stated to answer the questions naturally, if I do that, it might allow the employer to reject me. One screening technique that is worse than the questionnaires is a facial emotion recognition test.  Unless it is related to the requirements of the job, it is a tool of discrimination against people with autism. While I can read basic emotions, I find it hard to pick up on the more subtle signs of human emotion due to having autism.

Job interviews are another thing that requires more effort on my part to be successful in. So far I have not been able to get a job when I have had to do an interview. I believe this is because I have to adopt neurotypical ways of speaking and use mannerisms that are not natural to me. On top of that, I still have to sell myself, which is already difficult. If employers are serious about employing people with autism, they need to remove interviews and allow the candidate to sell themselves through their work rather than having to behave like a walking advertisement or a snake oil salesman.

Other social situations are demanding and the anxiety of not knowing how to react in these situations is demanding and can be exhausting. This leads to me having to “mask” no matter how unsuccessful it can be at times. It is easier to pretend to be normal as a child due to social situations being easier or that children are more accepting. However, high school is a tougher environment to be in. I was constantly bullied in high school. This has lead to me hiding my autism and feeling hurt when people pick up on me being different.  It is not their fault that I can feel offended but from my experiences in high school, it does hurt me because I fear being bullied or discriminated against again.

It may be easy to say “It’s ok to have autism” or “be proud of having autism” but in this world, it is a lot harder to think that way.  For the neurotypicals reading this post, if any of you know or think you know someone with autism, be more understanding and consider that what is jumping off or doing a back tuck off the beam may be a double double off the beam to them. Also, pointing out the social difficulties may be hurtful to them, no matter how sensitive you think you are in doing it.

Note: This blog post may not be reproduced partially or in full without my written consent. If you wish to use this blog post in any form, you must write to me first.

Monday, 12 August 2019

Why I can’t get employed with a disability

This is part 1 of my Finding a job with autism series.

More than three years since my last post, I have done an Honours degree and have been unable to find a job but have done casual positions for a few elections.

After doing an Honours degree, I want to do a PhD one day but before then, I feel that I need some more experience in research. This means that I have to find a job as a research assistant. But finding a job when I have a disability is harder in a world that does not seem to think that people with a disability make good employees.

In 2018, it was discovered that many Japanese government agencies were not meeting compulsory employment quotas for people with a disability even though they met these quotas on paper. This happened because the employees counted for this quota were not properly confirmed as people with a disability and agencies seemed to be exploiting loopholes. This caused a scandal in Japan.

While Australia does not have employment quotas for people with a disability, there is a scheme called RecruitAbility that allows people with a disability to advance to the next stage in the employment process if they meet the minimum standards for some public service jobs. This could be seen as a way for the public service to increase the number of employees with a disability. However, this journal article stated that out of 1,193 positions opting in to the RecruitAbility scheme, only 43 people with a disability were employed. In other words, only 3.6% of positions were filled by someone with a disability. This is not acceptable when a large number of people with a disability are unemployed and looking for work.

From my experience, while I have been able to get a few video and face to face interviews for jobs that were advertised under the aforementioned scheme, I have not been successful. I know that as someone with a disability, it is harder for me to find a job but the disability I have, which is a form of autism, makes the interview stage a lot tougher.

As someone on the autism spectrum, I have to compete for a job under a system that disadvantages me. The system requires me to have certain abilities in social communication that I do not have due to my disability. No wonder why in 2015 the unemployment rate for people with autism was 31.6% in Australia compared to 10% for people with a disability in general. If this is to change, employers need to be creative in how they find suitable employees. Maybe remove the interview stage and find other ways in choosing someone for the job. A job trial or a chance to provide a sample of the work required are my suggestions.  As someone with autism, there is a good chance that I will not do well in an interview but if I was able to show my ability to do a job in another way, I might be able to get a job.

The longer I stay unemployed, the harder it is going to be to find a job.  It would be nice to find a job before the end of this year.  Unfortunately, I am not the only one struggling in finding employment while having a disability. If things do not change, Australia will be the next country with a disability employment scandal.

For part 2 of this blog series, click here.

Note: This blog post may not be reproduced partially or in full without my written consent. If you wish to use this blog post in any form, you must write to me first.