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.

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