Friday, April 23, 2010

Autism attempts to stay at work

My boss approached me yesterday.

Boss: You can take care of Baby Corn?

Me: Yes.

Boss: Because he's going to get sick a lot. He's going to need all kind of vet care.

Me: (Confused, because he's never been sick so far and the internet says he has a normal life span. Made a note to self to call the medical department and go over his chart).

Me: Did you get my email?

Boss: *rolls eyes* Oh yeah, I got it.

Me: ... What do you think?

Boss: I think you handled the situation wrong. You shouldn't have left before the class was over.

Me: I left about ten minutes after he said, "Well, I guess we're done here." I thought we were done. What do you think about telling him that I have autism as an explanation?

Boss: I think you should have told me that you have autism in your interview. Sometimes I don't hire people like that.

Me: My doctor told me not to disclose my disability until I was hired.

Boss: Well, now it's a big problem. In fact, I'm not sure you're going to work out. We'll have to wait and see.

Now believe me, I get that it's illegal for her not to hire me because of autism or to let me go because of it, but there are several important factors. First, I don't think she cares. Second, I don't have any remaining energy to go fighting legal and moral battles here. I'm just trying to stay afloat. To be honest, if she doesn't want me as an employee simply because of my autism (I know that I'm a good worker), I don't want to work for her.

Call it running away, but I'm looking into another potential job. I'm terrified of this boss, who is known to full out scream at people. I don't want to work for someone like this. I can't deal with it.

I emailed the director of the daycare and basically said, here's the deal: I have Asperger's. While I'm really good at some things (remembering things, following rules), I suck at others, like relating to my peers. I'm kind, a very hard worker, and I love children. I just can't do office politics and might need help talking with parents. Do you want me?

She emailed back with about six questions about what Asperger's would mean at that job. I answered them all positively but honestly.

She's going to get back to me.

And did I mention I'm now really worried about Baby Corn?

Good thoughts and prayers, please? You know what to do.


  1. I totally understand not wanting to fight it. We have to take care of ourselves. It's not a good fit. Someone that would scream at you? Definitely NOT a good fit for a work environment. Not a battle I'd have the energy for either right now. Maybe another time but, not now. I hope the day care works out IF it would be a good fit.

  2. Lots of thoughts for Baby Corn.

    (Hope the Internet is right in this instance.)

    Here is something I found recently that many employers might like to read:

    Ten tips for working with an autistic employee from Cal

    It has already received a great deal of positive feedback.

    And talking to parents can be part of the autistic job description!

  3. "Sometimes I don't hire people like that".

    Well, that's blunt.

  4. Bother (only a lot stronger!)
    You are doing a good job of keeping it open and honest and the people around you at work are not. I hope the daycare works out better. But keep on trying, keep on making your way in the world because your place is taking part, not watching. You have as much to offer as anyone else, you just need to find your path.

  5. Would love to know an example of one of the 6 questions the daycare boss asked.

  6. Adelaide...

    "Hi Lydia,
    What are your capabilities in fast-paced multi-tasking? Once learned, do you think it takes you longer to do a task than other people? When I google Asperger's, one concern I have is the inclusion of "socially and emotionally inappropriate behavior". Have you experienced this, and can you tell me what happens if/when you do?
    Is adding and working with money one thing that you are comfortable and accurate with? My staff and parents would have to know your potential social limitations so they do not miscontrue you, yes?
    Do you have 2500 hours of experience working with children as the State of Pennsylvania requires?
    Thank you for your honesty as we work together to discover if this could be a positive experience for you and The Center.

  7. Lydia,

    Is there an advocate from college who might talk with the day care woman to help her understand what your strengths and limitations are? I don't know why we expect people to suddenly get by without support. The supports during school were there for a reason.

    It sounds like she's willing to learn at least.

    The cat lady sounds like she could use some social skills training herself. I can see why you would not want to work with someone who is unpredictable, unsupportive, and a screamer.

    I'm sorry it is so hard for you and I am holding you in the light, visualizing you in the perfect job for you. One where people are understanding and kind, and allowing and celebrating differences. You are paving a new path, you are a pioneer. I appreciate your willingness to put yourself out there. You are educating a lot of people.

  8. Lydia, hi. I am a friend of "Full Soul Ahead," she suggested I pop over here. I am Mom to 3 girls with autism. I am reading this post and my heart goes out to you. I'm pretty actively involved in the autism community and I talk to a lot of people every day/week. I'd like to read more of your blog and learn about you - and see what, if anything, I or some folks I know, can do to help. I admire you for sharing the challenges you face, and I'm sorry you're up against such ignorance.

    It's my pleasure to "meet" you.


  9. Those are all great questions.

    5 out of 6 show some awareness.

    Of course the 2500 hours working with children is a generic one.

    About "socially and emotionally inappropriate behaviour": Dr Google will not be her friend. (though she might need to be guided to sites which show the same or similar). Your honest response will be.

    (And staff and parents may need to know carefully calibrated information. Many of the parents will be at a sensitive stage when noticing developmental differences in their children, so seeing an autistic adult may be a positive influence on their outlook).

    Lawrie Bartak said many years ago, and it bears repeating: "Much of the behaviour of people with autism consists of normal reactions to an environment which seems distinctively odd to them and may indeed be odd in reality."

    Bartak, Lawrence (1992) Introduction to Nobody Nowhere.

  10. And the first 2 questions are very relevant to the work as well, and they can be concrete and easily measured.

  11. It's definitely not running away to consider other job possibilities. Some fit and some don't, and working for a screamer does not sound like a good fit! I'll be keeping you in my thoughts, hoping you find something that allows your talents to shine and also meets your needs.

  12. Strikes me it's your boss who's in the wrong job. Someone who is known to scream at people is not going to have a calm attitude required to work with often distressed animals. It is telling that she only mentioned you not being suitable after you told her about your diagnosis. What a short sighted ignorant person.

    Love and happy thoughts to you and Baby Corn