Today I will be speaking on a panel about workplace accommodations for autistic employees and about Autism-Hiring Initiatives in general. Later in the week, I’ll be speaking on Job Tips for Autistic Job Seekers.
I am diagnosed autistic and with gifted-intellect and with PTSD and GAD; in addition I am dyslexic, dyspraxic, and likely an ADDer/AHHDer and have OCD. Not sure is we say OCDer, yet. But I’m that, too. Frankly, I can’t keep up with the transitioning cultural norms.
Seeing as I am, as I am, I am beginning to wonder if we soon won’t have a blended-diagnosis, as many of the traits of one condition flow into the other. Think Venn Diagram on steroids; or if it’s a colorful diagram: on shrooms.
I don’t think there is any point in creating more and more boxes for each condition. As a human species we’ve boxed individuals enough. It’s ample enough to say I am anxious, neurotic, think differently than some, am a deep thinker, and create a lot in a short amount of time.
It’s funny how things circle back in life. I am thinking on my college professor, who confronted me years back, and partially propelled me into writing Everyday Aspergers blog and book. Thinking back, on how he said that there really isn’t Aspergers, it’s just wrapped up in another name. Used to be gifted, or bookworm, or introvert. Eight years later, and I’m starting to pull out from the finite view of one marker. One label. One manmade name. Whether Aspergers or autism or autism spectrum condition, I’m questioning it all. Funny how life works.
Back to the panel. When I am asked about accommodations, this is what’s on my mind.
Given the state of the world, with the global health crisis, the social unrest and injustice, the political climate, the state of our economy and the environment, it’s hard to focus on one section of society and answer: what accommodations should an autistic employees ask for in the workplace. The world demonstrates that it isn’t autistic people who need accommodations; it’s everyone.
According to a Cornell study 24% of the active workforce identifies with having at least one disability.
Two in five Americans report that they sometimes or always feel their social relationships are not meaningful, and 1 in 5 say they feel lonely or socially isolated. (And that was before the pandemic.) On average, 1 in 5 individuals have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner. Self-injury is on the rise. Suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34, and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 54.
The world is hurting.
While autistic people often have workplace challenges, a significant number of autistic adults require no direct support services. Where we all need support, is in the workplace environment, a culture that is a direct reflection of the outlying nation. Where we all need help, is in revamping the design of workplace practices to ensure inclusion and equity measures are embedded throughout.
We need to stop assuming that autistic people need a support team (e.g., a job coach, an HR specialist, a managerial check in), any more than the average citizen. We are all in crisis and we each need accommodations.
We each need team forums, where we can join together and process the wrecking ball of 2020. We each need community gatherings, where we can review what’s working and not working. We all need frank discussions led by role models, well-versed in conflict fluency, who can lead uncomfortable conversations in mature ways.
We need creative, engaging, and innovative professional educators to highlight the concepts of injustice, privilege and its offspring ableism. And transparent, lionhearted executives who recognize the dominant culture in the workplace and have the tenacity to do something about it.
Hiring practices need be revamped to adjust to many walks of life across the gender, color, age, and ability spectrum. When we focus on creating a safe place of belonging for all, we automatically address the primary need of most autistic individuals–the same need of most human beings–to be valued and heard, to not be bullied and ostracized, and to be given true liberty.
Freed from the oppressive restrictions imposed by authority. Freed from overly-subjective hiring practices. Freed from roadblocks to success. Freed from having no true voice at the table.
We all need this. And we all need this now.
Siloing autistic people through special hiring programs and treatment serves to perpetuate inequality; marking us as less than and in need of something extra. Just as we wouldn’t hover around a worker who utilizes a wheelchair and pounce a support team upon them, based on a disability or presentation style, nor should we do this to an autistic race of people.
We ought not force autistics to disclose in order to have a basic human right met: that of a sense of safety.
It’s far time to stop pounding the square peg into a broken round hole. We need to pound the workplace environment and apply universal design principles.
Enough time has been spent on highlighting our differences. Our different needs. Our different presentation styles. Our weaknesses. Our strengths. For the neurodivergent family, this broken lens of inclusivity is creating more and more inferior and superior constructs. A means to elevate us or push us down. We are either branded super hero or super needy. Incapable of maneuvering the workplace, without the guiding hands of more-capable beings.
Enough. It’s not about what accommodations autistic individuals need. It’s about what we all need. Change.
After I wrote this post, early this morning. Dr. Nancy Doyle’s talk at the Stanford University Summit validated my thoughts and works and writing I have done for the last several years.
Marcelle Ciampi (aka Samatha Craft) is a respected autistic author and community advocate, is best known for her writings found in the well-received book Everyday Aspergers. A professional educator, she has been featured in various literature, including peer-reviewed journals, Autism Parenting Magazine, The Mighty, Project Aspie, Art of Autism, and Different Brains. Marcelle works as the Recruitment Manager and Outreach Specialist at Ultranauts Inc., an engineering firm with a neurodiversity-hiring initiative, and is a consultant for Uptimize and Spectrum Fusion. A contributing author of Spectrum Women: Walking to the Beat of Autism, Marcelle speaks globally on the topic of neurodiversity. She also serves as the founder of Spectrum Suite LLC, the co-founder of the Spectrum Lights Inclusion Summit, co-executive of LifeGuides for Autistics (neuroguides.org), and a contributor and advisor to autism organizations and conferences internationally. Some of her works, especially The Ten Traits, have been translated into multiple languages and been shared in counseling offices around the world. She resides in the Pacific Northwest U.S.A. with her sons and life partner.
“Everyday Aspergers is an unusual and powerful exploration of one woman’s marvelously lived life. Reminiscent of the best of Anne Lamott, Everyday Aspergers jumps back and forth in time through a series of interlocking vignettes that give insight and context to her lived experience as an autistic woman. The humor and light touch is disarming, because underneath light observations and quirky moments are buried deep truths about the human experience and about her own work as an autistic woman discerning how to live her best life. From learning how to make eye contact to finding ways to communicate her needs to being a dyslexic cheerleader and a fraught mother of also-autistic son, Samantha Craft gives us a marvelous spectrum of experiences. Highly recommended for everyone to read — especially those who love people who are just a little different.”
~ Ned Hayes, bestselling author of The Eagle TreeAdvertisements