Meeting Expectations As an Autistic Employee

For thousands of autistic adults everyday is an opportunity to prove themselves. The testing fields are business organizations all across the nation with employees on the autism spectrum. For adults on the spectrum fortunate enough to be gainfully employed, the path is filled with obstacles. Consider the fact that so many autistic employees live with secondary medical conditions which require management and sometimes therapy. Further, those conditions may cause side effects such as pain and difficulty focusing as a result of medications. Living with the constant challenge of managing a permanent medical condition is difficult, by anyone’s definition, but life under these conditions with autism is hard. Yet, there are courageous
women and men who stand gallantly each day in the face of tremendous odds, as they are determined to live independent lives expressing their abilities to the fullest. These are the people who bring their “A” game every day, even when it is apparent they are experiencing extraordinary distress. Rather than complain, they move forward with the determination and heart of a warrior in environments that can be hostile at times – even unforgiving and callous.

There is an even greater enemy, however, that autistic adults must combat daily. That foe is invisible, lurking, insidious, and unrelenting. Challenges are not limited to health or physical conditions, but the emotional burden of low expectations and neglect can take a mental toll. Despite the fact that thousands of autistics are now enrolled, in and graduating from, colleges and universities around the world – there remains a perception of low achievement for those diagnosed with autism, in some circles. Working in such an environment is a tremendous source of stress for many on the spectrum. After years of meeting deadlines and serving as a model employee, there is an underlying doubt related to autistic workers performing at a level that conforms to company standards. While this may not hold true for all industries, the prevalence of these attitudes seem unusually high in the technology and computer fields. The argument could be made that certain occupational areas attract larger numbers of autistic employees. Perhaps – but the pressure to dispel myths is real and prove the doubters wrong is a powerful motivating force.

Ultimately the battle comes down to overcoming self- doubt and negative perceptions we all struggle with from time to time. The key here is to not allow labels or the expectations of others define who we are. There is still so much we don’t know about autism, but the process is evolving with new discoveries and possibilities. For anyone diagnosed with autism, it is vital to get the support needed to maximize the talents and gifts within. That is a fundamental right as a human being and without each individual making her unique contribution to society, the world simply isn’t as good as it could be. Some practical steps for autistic employees to consider would include seeking help from a support group or a professional skilled in the area of workplace conflict resolution. In addition, most group situations, including work settings, are comprised of caring people who are in touch of their surroundings. Gravitate to them and they will reach out in return, thus cancelling out the minority who are entrenched in antiquated thinking and negativity. Regardless of what others may say or think, we are all responsible for our feelings of worthiness and how we interact with others around us. Autism is not a barrier to achievement and being a good citizen of the world – unless we allow it to become a personal detriment. Stay strong and keep it moving in the direction of your goals. Eventually the walls will come down and all resistance is gone.

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Sexuality and Autism (Part 1)

Many parents have a great concern when their autistic child reaches the ripe old age of sexual maturity. Ah, what to do? Should we put our daughter on birth control? Should we try to explain sexuality to our son who cannot sit still or offer his attention for more than a minute? It is a dilemma and every child faces this time in their life.

The first question many people ask is, “Do autistic people have sex?” That’s like asking if it will get dark outside tonight. Of course, the answer is, “yes.” It might not be the answer you want to hear but it is the truthful answer you must face with your child.

Another question you may have is, “Should I talk about sex with my child?” This answer has a lot to do with the ability level of your child. If your son/daughter has Asperger’s syndrome then the answer is a definite, “yes.” If your child does not have the ability to tie his/her shoes or feed him/herself then you must determine if your child will gain anything from this conversation.

Other parents ask if their young adult will become sexually active. This, like so many things regarding autism, is an interesting and difficult question. First, it is not at all uncommon for both boys and girls to masturbate. Sometimes, depending on where the person appears on the spectrum, masturbation can take happen in places that might be embarrassing. During my years of teaching the autistic population, we had this happen in the classroom occasionally. We discussed the situation with the school psychologist and her recommendation was to remove the child from the classroom and take him/her to the bathroom for privacy. This, I know, is not the solution everyone would agree with. For this reason, in my opinion, each teacher and each parent must come up with their own satisfactory solution. Aside from masturbation, sexual relations with another person is quite possible. Once again, it depends on the ability level of your child.

It is interesting to note that many more autistic adults are asexual compared to the remainder of the population. It is also believed that there is a higher percentage of gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgendered autistic people when compared with the general population. Part of the reason for this is that there is not such a strong need for conformity. Another interesting fact is that many more gay autistics are celibate. This is by choice.

Some parents are wondering if their child will ever have a date, find a mate, and possibly marry. Naturally, this scenario is much less than in the remainder of the population. There are couples who marry. However, these are generally more high-functioning autistics. Some reasons why an autistic person might not become involved in a relationship is a simple fact that it can be very difficult for a socially impaired person to find a partner. Often, aside from the norm, it is not uncommon for the female to put the make on the male. However, the male, due to his inexperience, may not react appropriately simply because he does not know how.

Part 2 will delve a little deeper into sexuality and the autistic young adult.

Until next time, have a great day and remember to take good care of yourself!

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Sexuality and Autism, Part 2

In Part 1 we explored the fact that people with autism are no different from any other person, they, too, enjoy sexual experiences. This article is going to take a closer look at what may be a part of an autistic persons’ introduction to puberty.

Author Geri Newton, in her article, Social/Sexual Awareness, states that, “Many of my clients have told me that having sex with someone is the only time they feel normal… when they are sexual with someone, they are just like everyone else – grown up.” She says that she has heard this same message from people with Identified IQ’s from 30 to 70, verbal and nonverbal. This is something we, as a society, should take time to explore further. Why? In my opinion, it is sad to realize that so many of our “brothers and sisters” can only feel normal when they are involved in a sexual encounter. And how much time do they spend in these sexual experiences? Most likely not too much time. This means that during the other hours of the week these people are probably feeling different, even out-of-place.

If you are the parent of a son, or a daughter, reaching puberty you most likely have some concern, maybe even some fear, as to how to deal with this new chapter in your autistic child’s life. During this time, you will need to first prepare your child for puberty and the body changes s/he faces. In girls, the parents should be prepared to help their child through this exciting time. This allows the parents the opportunity to review, on a regular basis, such areas as social expectations. This includes manners, positive sexual behavior, social accepted rules along with boundaries. These discussions should be conducted at home as well as in public. This is the perfect time, when in a restaurant, for example, to discuss manners and behavior.

Parents of an autistic girl, entering puberty, might discover it easier to use ability-appropriate level books, with pictures, to explain and show as you go. She needs to understand her various body parts and the function of each. She will most likely be delighted to hear that she will soon be developing breasts. However, she might not feel the same excitement about menstruation and the procedures to follow when the period starts. If your daughter carries a small purse you should make certain to pack some sanitary napkins and a pair of clean undies. Frequently remind her about the changes she will soon be facing.

Hopefully you have been working together as a team, her teacher, your daughter, and yourself. It is imperative that the team frequently review what happens once the period begins and to go through each step of using the sanitary napkin. She also needs to understand that her pad needs to be changed regularly and she may also need to clean herself. If you follow each of these steps, then you will prepare her for the “event.” You should also teach her how to properly dispose of her used pad. If a young girl is not prepared it can be terrifying for her to be sitting in a classroom and suddenly feel something running down her leg. Then, when she realizes it is blood this can cause her to have a very traumatic experience. While explaining the whole process, you should have a couple of sanitary napkins (the type she will be using so she is familiar with them) to show her the proper way to apply it. If you have a large doll, or some other object, show her the steps to applying the pad. Then, have her practice doing the same. You should review this procedure until she feels comfortable and can properly apply the pad.

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