Okay, I’ve been under a fair bit of stress lately, some of it from sensory overloads and the like at my work placements, and some of it from financial and personal stuff at home. As a result, I’ve been really short on spoons lately (thanks to Unstrange Mind, who linked to the explanation, which I’ve passed on to all my colleagues!), and feeling the fatigue. And my internship ends the end of March, and that means that I need to find a new job.
But things have changed since I last held down a job I could tolerate for longer than a couple of weeks without constant meltdowns. I have a lot more awareness of my needs now, and of what overloads me, and I have a stronger, better support system as well (my fellow bloggers as well as my local Aspie friend – my online writing Aspie friend I’ve had since before I was at that long-term job – and my parents have a lot more awareness as well). So I’m trying to work out what I’m going to need in terms of work conditions, and what I’d like in terms of work conditions (in that order – needs being the non-negotiable items), so I can have an idea, looking at a job description, whether I’d be suited to it or not. So this post is going to be used to compile a list, and I would invite other Aspies / Autistics / ASDs who have held or are holding down part-time and / or full-time jobs where you’re employed by other people to comment, make suggestions, and possibly add your own experiences asking for accomodations.
Please note: This is not meant as a master list. The list in this post is strictly for my own personal use; “if you’ve met one autistic, you’ve met one autistic.” Nor are either of the lists in any particular order.
- NOT Retail (This is important. I cannot handle the retail environment. 15 minutes at the front desk of a hotel was too long for me to tolerate – and there weren’t even many people who came up to the desk in that time!)
- Written expectations and prioritizations (I can’t remember things I’m told, unless I’m told to remember them, and even then they have to be short; a list of things would be a disaster. And I can’t prioritize!)
- Air-conditioning in the summer (Again, a requirement. I’m allergic to heat, my internal thermostat is seriously screwed up at this point, and while it doesn’t tend to get as hot in St. John’s in the summer as it does in Toronto, it does sometimes go up to or over 20°C – 68°F – and that’s way too hot for me to tolerate.)
- Minimal human interaction (This does not mean no human interaction. I’ve handled the post of admin of a school reasonably well before. But the less human interaction I have to deal with during work hours, the more energy I’ll have for the rest of my life. Dealing with 1-2 people at a time is… about 2 spoons. Dealing with more approaches 4-5, or even 6 spoons.)
- Environment that is not too noisy (with lots of – 5+ – people around) – carpetting would be good, not too bright (can we say “fluorescents are not a good thing unless I’m allowed to wear sunglasses”?), and non-CRT screens
- Quiet (and possibly dark) space available when I need it (This can be a wellness room, a personal office that has a door I can close, whatever. I just need to be able to access it, and possibly work from it as necessary.)
- The understanding that I may need to excuse myself from a conversation if it gets too confusing for me (Emotional, or confrontational, or too many people, or I lose track of what’s going on.)
- Minimal lifting requirements (I don’t have a lot of endurance, and with spoons….)
- [Edit: Mar. 05/13] A supervisor and colleagues who understand and accept that there are days when I’ll cope better (and thus be more relaxed and more social) and days when I’ll cope worse (and thus will want everyone to leave me alone), and I don’t always know which it’ll be until I’ve gotten started on that day
- My own office (Not cubicle-space, please! See environment comment above.)
- Computer-focused job (As opposed to person- or item-focused.)
- People to not stare if I need to stim obviously (Cuddle a stuffed toy, play with a squeeze ball, etc.)
- The ability to play my music when I want (Even if I have to wear headphones for this.)
- 1 hour for lunch (This is a want rather than a need because I can handle a half-hour lunch; it’s just easier for me if I have a one hour lunch.)
- The ability to have water and / or tea at my desk
- Casual clothing requirements (Meaning not having to wear business clothes or a uniform. Again, not a need, because I have done both before, but it’s not pleasant. I prefer light, loose clothing – not only for the heat allergy.)
- [Added Feb. 20/13] Flex hours (Which would help on days when I feel like I can’t get out of bed.)
I may or may not come up with others, but those are the ones I can think of sort of off the top of my head (‘sort of’ because it’s been about an hour composing this). (If I do add more – maybe from some suggestions – I’ll mark that they’ve been edited in.)
A bit late to the party, but love your post!It’s all so very true! The curse of Aspergers is that you often appear nmoral, so people will question the fact that you have Aspergers. I’m sorry that I don’t spend my day rocking back and forth in my room. Not everyone does that. I also can’t count cards and win at the casino. Sorry, no Rainman here. But I can talk and write and get married and raise a family like most people. But you also don’t see my struggles, or understand what’s going on inside me. You see, I’ve also learned to hide my Aspergers because of rude idiots I’ve encountered. You are so right about, You wouldn’t last five minutes inside my head. No they wouldn’t. And they would beg to get out and back to their cozy little lives.
Very good idea to make a list like this of needs and wants! I think I will do that myself. I have employment problems too, albeit not all the same ones and my difficulties are less severe and visible I think.
I need calm and quiet surroundings too (seriously – and not what most people think of as ‘quiet’. I don’t find most libraries I know quiet, for example), calm non-intrusive and limited social interactions with plenty of wind-down time in between, clear preferably written down instructions, expectations, priorities, procedures and feedback, people to be respectful but clear and direct in their communication (gossippy workplace cultures are highly toxic!), and preferably access to somewhere secluded, private and calm to withdraw & recover when needed. Preferably a private, closed door office space (but I guess only managers get that in an office!). Some sort of understanding to excuse myself from all social lunches inside cafes, noisy cantinas, malls et.c, skip Christmas parties and dinners and take alone-time when needed without being labelled anti-social (because I am not).
Personal integrity is also on the list of needs. I can’t ‘sell stuff’ to people that I don’t believe they need, or represent a reckless organisation, or collect information with the purpose of using it to manipulate people (e.g. for marketing purposes). Or present biased information with logical problems that I have noticed. It all has to be right and all information has to be logical and consistent (not just pretend to be). I guess I would be unsuitable for sales jobs for a lot of reasons;-)
I currently work part time as a face to face research interviewer, and that job actually ticks most points on the list; partly because it is part time;-) which gives recovery time in between the drives. I drive in my own car (private space), most of the job takes place in fairly quiet surroundings (outdoor in calm outer suburbs and countryside, and in my car and home office) except during the actual interviews where there can be challenging amounts of background noise – kids, TV, people talking. Instructions, expectations, priorities and procedures are clear, direct and in writing, oral feedback is usually followed by a written summary. (There is weekly reporting via the phone though. I used to do them mostly via email to my previous supervisor, but recently got a new supervisor). No regular interaction with colleagues, just weekly reporting and updates with supervisor and manager via phone or email. Since face to face interaction with colleagues/managers is rare and since there is no fixed place of work (for the interviewers), all communication is structured, concise and information-based. And the job has good integrity (benign purpose, unbiased data collection; and employer has high professional integrity).
And here is how it works for me: I think I do the job well, but the ‘aftermath’ of ‘blocks’ of interviews (e.g. 4 or more interviews) is often horrible and I find myself in a ‘shell shocked’, depleted and incredible restless and unsettled state after I come home. The interviews and introductions require an intensive and extremely energy consuming ‘acting performance’ and I often don’t realise how draining it is until it is over. (The long drives can be depleting too). That is the downside. Plus, since the hours are totally variable, the job doesn’t provide stability and predictable routines. Still, it works a lot better than other jobs I have had!