Browsing Facebook and this image popped up in the newsfeed, thinking about it there is so much that could be said. Thoughts turned to the employment reality. This reality has been one that has been a road of troughs and peaks that’s for sure. A number of trough times extended and generally few peaks of any length. A quick rundown of work history ….

  • David Jones store-man – 6 months
  • Survey field hand – 12 months
  • Survey assistant – 9 months
  • Bookstore warehouse – 4 months
  • Condiment miller – 6 months (casual)
  • Process worker – various little stints here and there
  • Hand assembly printed matter – 4 months (this a peak as I got promoted)
  • Production Supervisor – 18 months
  • Customer Service (3 months casual)
  • Customer service supervisor (6 months – company goes broke)
  • Primary Teacher – School number 1 – 1 Year
  • Primary Teacher – School number 2 -1 Year
  • Primary Teacher – School number 3 – 1 Year
  • Primary Teacher – School number 4 – 9 months
  • Office Manager – 2 years (and a bit)

It’s quite a litany and as you can see lot’s of short term stuff. It can easily be described as an example of a bloke that is unable to stick at a job, or possibly someone incapable of effectively performing their duties. If only that were the truth it would perhaps be so much easier to deal with. So much more able to digest. The reality is somewhat different. The reality is that on virtually every occasion the reasoning for failing to succeed or stay on in these jobs was due to a failure to be able to negotiate the social contracts of the workplace. Those unwritten rules that neurotypical people seem to innately understand. It strikes me that those altercations around the stereotypical water fountain are of far more importance to workplace success than we would dare to give credit to. The reality of this is that in some respects the successful negotiation of these altercations has more to do with success than the actual successful carrying out of your duties successfully.

The truth that these positions were all undertaken whilst being unaware of diagnoses as Âûtistic has some relevance when it comes to advocating for accommodations and understanding, but not, I dare say, with the eventual outcomes of these roles. We may say that without the benefit of diagnoses how is a workplace meant to make accommodations for workers, and there is some validity to this I dare say, however on the contrary is the reality that just because someone takes things said at their face value and fails to adequately negotiate the social contracts, but, at the same time, successfully carries out the duties of their role, should they not be able to continue in that role?

An example – Employed as a primary teacher on a 12 months contract. Generally working pretty well in terms of managing the classroom and following the curriculum etc. The staff politics etc are a somewhat different matter. Things are said in staff social situations which perhaps were better left unsaid, opinions are expressed when they are not wanted, even though the face value of the words were that the opinion was asked for. Staff meetings are a ticking time bomb, the leadership introduce a proposal for a curriculum idea. Staff discuss it outside of a staff meeting, many are not in favour, the staff meeting discussion ensues. The leadership ask for opinions. Opinions are given, possibly contrary to what the leadership desires. The upshot that the initiative is taken, the employed teacher carries out said initiative. Contract renewal time arrives and said teacher is unsuccessful in renewing contract, not because of student results, or anything of that ilk, but the perceived idea that the said teacher is not on board with the direction of the team, that there have been opinions expressed in social settings that were less than desirable….

Without diagnosis it is difficult to negotiate accommodations to these kinds of settings. A diagnosis leaves the individual in a position to at the least learn what accommodations may be needed for them to be successful and to be able to communicate some of the difficulties they may have. It leaves the individual in a position where they might just be able to find employment positions where they are able to find situations with employers willing and able to make appropriate accommodations to enable success.

Diagnosis is a vexed issues for adults on the spectrum. It seems self-diagnosis is common. A significant issue for this is the cost. It costs quite a substantial sum to seek this out, there is no funding, at least not in Australia, to seek this out. Diagnosis for this Âûtistic cost around $1000. It can be less it can be more. Given that there are by some figures 62% of adults on the Autism Spectrum unemployed, the access to diagnosis is limited.

How will the lack of accommodations, and the high rate of unemployed Âûtistic adults be tackled when there are such financial barriers to diagnosis. It is difficult enough to seek such from an employer when one has the trusty piece of paper proclaiming a diagnosis. To do so on the evidence of online testing and personal research is perhaps too much to ask of any person, much more so, a person with social deficits.

What is to be done. What can be done. There are no easy answers to this question. And this is clearly not the experience of all Âûtistic adults as there are some who are very successful in obtaining and holding employment, however, it appears it is the experience of the many. The many who  either have long periods of unemployment, or are on a perpetual roundabout of job to dole to job to dole.

The prevalence of depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other mental illnesses in people on the spectrum adds to this complexity. The lack of access to services for adults on the spectrum is horrifying. In Australia, there seems to be essentially the FAHCSIA funding for pre-school children, then there is the possibility of the state based education funding arrangements whilst at school, however once out of that system, what then?

After a school life that was mostly hell, ridicule from students and teachers alike, constantly told achievement did not match potential, and never receiving an ounce of assistance or accommodations work life has been quite similar. As if existing in some fog that is inconceivable and unable to be understood. An existence in an undiagnosed state that lead to failure disappointment and a cycle of highs and lows, obliteration of self-esteem and resilience.

That question again. What is to be done?

Sitting now as a diagnosed adult, there is emergence from the fog, and a different level of self-understanding. At 45 with a number of false-started careers, attempts to retrain etc. Sitting with a reliance on an inadequate support system, not sure where to turn to access what limited support there is. What is to be done?

The light at the end of the tunnel for those of this vintage is not fantastic, however there is some wonderful work being done by some wonderful organisations such as The I Can Network. Largely this is going to the next generation, and I think for many within this they have had diagnosis for a larger part of their lives, and one hopes their future is far brighter, support and accommodations far easier to come by. The turning of I Can’t into I can.

Well I can too, but I just need some help. It’s hard to find the help, it’s hard to find airspace even to call for the help, when so much of the space of Âûtism is taken up with ridiculous cure culture, crazy anti-vaxers trying to blame a developmental issue on something external and the really crazy and abusive bleachers following blindly the horrible gospel of Kerri Riviera.

What is to be done? Âûtistics adults are wanting to know, Âûtistic adults are willing and able of fulfilling lives. Âûtistic adults are looking to be listened to.

Hear us!